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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
For The Record - During WW2, Not All Germans Were Swastika-Waving, Nazi-Lovers
I view this well-produced wartime drama as being something of a belated apology from Germany.
Its story clearly tells the viewer that there were many Germans who didn't adhere to the beliefs and values of their fanatical Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. But, due to the stringent laws set down at the time, they were forced to toe-the-line, or else face severe punishment and, yes, even death.
Filmed in b&w, our story concerns young Werner Holt who (through numerous flashbacks) reflects on his experiences throughout the war.
First as a wide-eyed student and zealous Nazi-wannabe, disillusionment and hateful resentment towards the almighty SS soon sets in as Werner eventually learns some cold, sobering truths about what allegiance to the Third Reich really means.
Competently directed by Joachim Kunert, this 1965 picture was well-received in both East & West Germany upon its theatrical release.
One of this film's biggest pluses was that there was no American presence in the story. One of this film's biggest minuses was its 2-hour/37-minute running time.
All-in-all - I'd say that this wartime tale was well-worth one viewing. This picture is considered by many critics and historians to be one of the most important German films ever made.
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