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A dramatization of the life of Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler's young architect and onetime confidant, and his meteoric rise into the Nazi hierarchy. The film is based on Speer's autobiography of the same name. Written by
Dawn M. Barclift
Dramatization of Albert Speer's life, bond with Adolph Hitler, and service to the Third Reich
Albert Speer, sentenced to 20 years for his part in Nazi Germany, served out his sentence and died in 1981. He wrote several books, of which one, Inside the Third Reich, is the basis of this movie. Speer was Hitler's architect and later the minister of armaments who used slave labor to keep the German war machine going. Later he risked his life by countermanding Hitler's orders to destroy Germany's infrastructure. Speer was not in on the Final Solution, but he had to know about it and the movie tells it that way.
The movie is reasonably accurate as to his character, his activities, and the inner circle around Hitler. The movie does not hit you over the head in showing what Speer's motivations were. It gives you accurate feelings about him without overly relying on dialogue to bring out his nature. Mostly you can figure him out by the action and by Rutger Hauer's acting, which is quite good.
The casting and acting of the Nazi parts is actually phenomenal. Derek Jacobi does about the best portrayal of Hitler that I have ever seen. The director particularly used lighting effectively in conjunction with Jacobi's acting to capture the eyes of Hitler. Not perfectly, but sometimes uncannily close. Ian Holm plays Dr. Goebbels fittingly. The lesser roles of Bormann, Himmler, Hess, Eva Braun, etc. are not only well cast but extremely well played and often riveting. All of this helps the movie immeasurably.
Trevor Howard has an important part as Speer's mentor and the father figure whom he abandoned for Hitler. Howard without fail delivers the goods in every movie he's in.
Sir John Gielgud plays Speer's father. The deficiencies in Speer's childhood and family life are not brought out, as far as I can tell. I read that the father was cold and that another child was the family favorite. Gielgud showed the father as quite stiff at first, but then he warmed up so fast to Speer's bride that we really didn't get a good feel for his impact on his son from his performance alone. But Speer always called him father and was quite stiff in his presence, so that we got a glimmer.
Blythe Danner is Speer's wife. I have to say that I disliked both her part and her voice, but not her acting. The script made her something of a foe of the Nazis and Speer's conscience. This is probably inaccurate. Ms. Danner conveyed the feelings asked of her. My complaint is that her diction is quite bad and her voice scratchy. Since her part was also fake, she tended to bring the movie down whenever she appeared. This occurred mainly in the first third or half.
I come now to Speer's moral character. It becomes evident that he sought a father figure, that he was very capable and ambitious, wowed by power and figures with power, and more genteel and cultured than the other Nazis in Hitler's inner circle. Speer did not have much of a conscience, and he was a narrow technocrat and architect. Because of these traits, Hitler pretty much could bewitch him, and also because he was anxious to rise. Plus he had the capacity to look the other way and ignore the injustices and evils that he saw and that he knew were happening around him.
Speer's imperfections are not unlike those of almost any human being. It is just that we see them in an enlarged fashion in his life because of the positions he occupied. That makes this movie worthwhile.
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