Downfall

Downfall

4.7 19
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Cast: Bruno Ganz, Juliane Köhler, Alexandra Maria Lara

     
 

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The last ten days of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime are seen through the eyes of a young woman in his employ in this historical drama from Germany. Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) was 22 years old when, in the fall of 1942, she was hired to be personal secretary to Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz). In April of 1945, Junge was still working for Hitler as forces were… See more details below

Overview

The last ten days of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime are seen through the eyes of a young woman in his employ in this historical drama from Germany. Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) was 22 years old when, in the fall of 1942, she was hired to be personal secretary to Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz). In April of 1945, Junge was still working for Hitler as forces were bearing down on Germany and the leader retreated to a secret bunker in Berlin for what would prove to be the last ten days of his life, as well as that of the Third Reich. As Hitler's mistress Eva Braun (Juliane Köhler) attempts to throw a cheerful birthday party for her man, Hitler's closest associates, including Heinrich Himmler (Ulrich Noethen), Joseph Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes), and Albert Speer (Heino Ferch), urge him to flee the city with only Goebbels maintaining any illusions that the Third Reich has any hope of survival. Hitler refuses to leave Berlin, and he spends his final days ranting and raving to Junge, blaming all around him as he tries to understand where his leadership went wrong. Meanwhile, Goebbels and his wife round up their six children and bring them to the bunker as Berlin begins to topple, determined to take their lives rather than face the Allies after Germany's certain defeat. Der Untergang (aka The Downfall) was based in part on the memoirs of the real-life Traudl Junge, whose experiences also formed the basis of the 2002 documentary Im Toten Winkel: Hitlers Sekretarin (aka Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary).

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
The singular achievement of this masterful film, a chilling fictional account of the Third Reich’s last days, is its portrayal of Adolf Hitler: He’s depicted as not only monstrous and unhinged but also kindly (in fleeting moments, anyway) and more than a little pathetic. Director Olivier Hirschbiegel, by making his subject a recognizable human being instead of a one-dimensional villain, shows us an increasingly desperate Hitler who at times seems -- dare we say? -- almost sympathetic. Based on the reminiscences of Traudl Junge, one of der Führer’s secretaries, Downfall takes place almost entirely in the underground bunker where Hitler and his inner circle spent their final weeks. Although Allied victory is all but assured, the rapidly degenerating Nazi dictator (brilliantly portrayed by Bruno Ganz) continues to plot the war’s course, issuing orders to dead commanders and deploying troop battalions that no longer exist. His mistress, Eva Braun (Juliane Kohler), and closest confidants, Joseph and Magda Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes and Corinna Harfouch), maintain their loyalty to the once-powerful Hitler even though they recognize what he doesn’t: that their capture is imminent. In a deeply unnerving scene, for instance, Magda Goebbels feeds cyanide to her unsuspecting children rather than let them be taken by Allied soldiers. Downfall does not for a moment justify anything Hitler did, but, in relying on the historical record presented by Junge, it does paint a more detailed picture of the man than has ever been seen: He even displays symptoms of kindness and takes comfort in his pet dog, Blondi. The movie dares to hint that perhaps Hitler was not simply a megalomaniacal lunatic but also a misguided idealist who allowed his grandiose dreams to subvert his humanity. Like it or loathe it, you’ll remember Downfall for a very long time.
All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
Any honest effort to fictionalize Adolf Hitler is bound to encounter criticism, because it is impossible to dramatize any aspect of his life without portraying him as, essentially, a human being. Even a film like Olivier Hirschbiegel's Downfall, which portrays Hitler's grim last days and makes it clear that he was mad, is criticized because it shows him in a few lighter moments. How can the beast who slaughtered innocent millions have been capable of gently mussing a young boy's hair or putting a nervous secretary at ease with a joke? But Hirschbiegel and screenwriter/producer Bernd Eichinger understand that evil does not exist in a vacuum and that part of what makes Hitler and Nazi Germany so unfathomable is that the worst of them were still human, and that the state was kept running by essentially normal people. The film is compelling to the extent that it makes clear that true believers like Joseph Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes of Winter Sleepers) and Hitler (Bruno Ganz) may have singled out the Jews, but eventually their contempt spread to all of humanity, including, tellingly, their own people. "They gave us our mandate," says Goebbels, expressing no sympathy for the ordinary Berliners being slaughtered because Hitler refuses to surrender. By Hitler's twisted standard, meanwhile, it's the German people who have failed him. The film as a whole, however, is rather slow and scattered, showing clear signs that it was cobbled together from a multitude of historical sources. Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) certainly has an interesting story (already told in the documentary, Hitler's Secretary), but the filmmakers offer little insight into why such people allowed themselves to be caught up in the madness. Downfall succeeds, for the most part, in painstakingly depicting who did what when, but beyond that, it feels like a missed opportunity. Nevertheless, the film did garner widespread acclaim in the American press, with many proclaiming it a contemporary masterpiece.
Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan
The reality it confronts is so gripping, we cannot turn away. This may not be the most sophisticated retelling of what happened while Berlin burned, but what a story it is.
Chicago Tribune - Michael Wilmington
Downfall, whatever its shortcomings, bears strong witness to great evil. That is its triumph as a film.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
It's a bracing reminder that before Hitler took power, it was handed to him. The lesson resonates long after the credits roll. Sean Axmaker

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/12/2009
UPC:
5060116722642
Original Release:
2004
Rating:
R
Source:
Ais
Region Code:
0
Time:
2:29:00

Special Features

The making of Downfall; Cast and filmmaker interviews; Melissa Müller about Traudi Junge; Shooting in Russia: behind the scenes look with production crew commentary; About shooting: behind the scenes look with director's commentary

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bruno Ganz Adolf Hitler
Juliane Köhler Eva Braun
Alexandra Maria Lara Traudl Junge
Corinna Harfouch Magda Goebbels
Ulrich Matthes Joseph Goebbels
Heino Ferch Albert Speer
Christian Berkel Dr. Schenck
Matthias Habich Werner Haase
Thomas Kretschmann Hermann Fegelein
Ulrich Noethen Heinrich Himmler
Götz Otto Otto Guensche
Donevan Gunia Peter, the Hitler Youth kid
Michael Mendl Actor
André Hennicke Actor
Heinrich Schmieder Actor

Technical Credits
Oliver Hirschbiegel Director
Claudia Bobsin Costumes/Costume Designer
Andorthe Braker Casting
Stefan Busch Sound/Sound Designer
Bernd Eichinger Producer,Screenwriter
Hans Funck Editor
Rainer Klausmann Cinematographer
Michael Kranz Sound/Sound Designer
Bernd Lepel Production Designer
Neezers Special Effects
Die Nefzers Special Effects
Waldemar Pokromski Makeup
Hanus Polak Asst. Director
Christine Rothe Associate Producer
Roland Winke Sound/Sound Designer
Stephan Zacharias Score Composer
Yelena Zhukova Art Director

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