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Two 17-year-olds, Werner Holt and Gilbert Wolzow, are pulled out of school and into Hitler's army. Gilbert becomes a fanatical soldier, but at the front Werner begins to understand the senselessness of war. When Gilbert is hanged by the SS, Werner turns his gun on his own army. This film, based on Dieter Noll's novel, is a political and artistic masterpiece. Its fresh and surprising frankness about the toll war takes on youth found great public resonance after the film's release. Written by
DEFA Film Library
This movie is a timeless masterpiece, and one of Germany's top 10 rated films. It will draw the viewer with surprising frankness , and bold actions of 2 young men of an unlikely friendship, coming of age in the 1940's Germany. Drafted from Highschool to the German Military, both of them going through a character Transition: Werner, a more sensible person, turns more and more into a sceptic by witnessing how his ideals getting destroyed by the application of a ruthless fascist system where he has to be part of it. Gilbert, also intelligent, a man of action and a Go Getter develops a passion for everything Military, that eventually will challenge his friendship to Werner. The viewer will experience both of them as likable characters at first, and will go with them through a transition .Eventually feel the painful decision process they are forced to undergo. The gap between them widen and resolves a final movie climax. Being a complex psychological Drama, the film does not lack action or battle scenes, which were masterfully staged and ahead of their times. Using newly invented filmographic artwork, a realistic ambiance leaves the viewer in awe, even today with it's special effects and CGI technologies. Many elderly Germans who I had the pleasure sharing this movie with, attested it as being an authentic capture of the period. Made in 1965, the memory of the 40's where fresh and painful, the production used people with first hand experiences, to left no detail missing. For most movie directors using flashbacks of a flashback are usually a No No to use in blockbuster films. Surprisingly it works very well in this film. It does, because it helps the viewer to understand their character transitions from High School to the dramatic combat scenes. Both of them are not the typical blind Nazi followers, nor fanatics, nevertheless prisoners of their times. Sometimes even swimming against the popular tide of fascism, by beating up their schools Hitler Youth leader, for being a cruel prick.
If they would have been born 20 years later, they would have blended right into our social fabric, as perhaps intellectuals (Werner) or aggressive businessman (Gilbert).
Some viewers criticized this film for not using authentic WW2 rifles, pointing towards the AK-47, allegedly used in this film by German soldiers. When in fact they where "Sturmgewehr 44s", with whom not many people are familiar with. This Gun was issued by few German units in 1945, and described as one of Hitlers so called Wonder weapons to change the outcome of the war.
The Actors and the Acting As a German raised Canadian, I love those Actors, because I grew up seeing them on German TV for half of my lifetime, and recently again, because the internet and online shopping makes it possible to reunite with them. Most of them can still be seen on new German TV productions today. For me, they where simply the best. Does a wage of x-million $ per film, make a Hollywood actor better, than an actor from another country who does quality work with a moderate wage ? I guess only American movie fans can answer that. For me, they just created one of my most favourite films. My Dad , a veteran of age 84 and I, are in accord on this opinion, as for my part I have listened a lot but not enough of my past 55 years to him, specially interested in the wartime. At first very reluctant to tell me much, my insistence paid of over the years. He grew up like a normal child from a middle class farming family, enjoying the seasons, Fishing, hunting and swimming in the ancient Hessel river. Joined the Hitler Youth, because almost every young boy did. That meant privilege's like participating in motor sport and glider plane classes. Our farming community lived in a quite and tranquil place of Germany, with not much going on. There was plenty of food on the farm, many family gatherings and celebrations, it seemed like time would not touch this little peaceful and enchanting world. That idyll all ended in the second year of the war, just like it did in the movie. If my Dad says the movie got it accurately, than I do believe him
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