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Hans van Tongeren,
A dramatization of the life of Albert Speer, Hitler's young architect and onetime confidant, and his meteoric rise into the Nazi hierarchy. Based upon Speer's own monograph of the same title. Written by
Dawn M. Barclift
This movie is a fine adaptation of Albert Speer's autobiography of the same name. It is at its best when showing us the vicious backstabbing and tawdry competition among Hitler's top men. Speer walks among these power-hungry vipers like an aristocrat among peasants; indeed, the movie can be faulted for taking Speer too much at his own evaluation, and not showing how he was corrupted and influenced by the company he kept. Some of the other characterizations are not quite accurate either - Speer's wife, Marguerite, in reality was not the voice of conscience continuously warning him that what he was doing was wrong and they were all doomed. Other biographies have revealed her to be generally uncritical and in some ways pleased with her elite position as the wife of one of Germany's top men. And while Speer's father was a liberal and against the Nazis, their relationship was not as warm and open as shown here, and Speer was not greatly influenced by him. In fact, it is hard to believe that Speer could have easily followed the path he did in life if all the most important, beloved and admired people in his life had been as clear-sighted and vocal about his mistakes as they are shown to be here. The movie thus falsifies some of the historical atmosphere, and overlooks to what extent perfectly respectable middle-class people in Germany thought Hitler was wonderful. But these flaws are outweighed by the movie's strengths - Derek Jacobi gives a stunning performance as Hitler. One can almost imagine how charismatic and appealing he must have been, as he switches from charm to humour to passion as required. A wonderful scene is just before the Nuremberg Rally, where Hitler stands in front of a series of mirrors, practicing his trademark gestures - arms folded, fists clenching - while talking quietly to Speer about the great future ahead of them. The nature of Hitler as a performer and actor has never been shown as clearly. Ian Holm also gives a great performance as Goebbels - repulsive, unshakeably fanatical and cold-blooded, yet also dangerously intelligent and even witty. This is a view of WWII from a particular angle, and it thus has a lot of gaps (for instance, Speer claimed never to have really known what was happening to the Jews) but it is still engrossing and well worth watching.
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