A tale based on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the controversial conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic whose tenure coincided with the controversial Nazi era. One of the most spectacular ... See full summary »
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A tale based on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the controversial conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic whose tenure coincided with the controversial Nazi era. One of the most spectacular and renowned conductors of the 30s, Furtwangler's reputation rivaled that of Toscanini's. After the war, he was investigated as part of the Allies' de-Nazification programme. In the bombed-out Berlin of the immediate post-war period, the Allies slowly bring law and order--and justice--to bear on an occupied Germany. An American major is given the Furtwangler file, and is told to find everything he can and to prosecute the man ruthlessly. Tough and hard-nosed, Major Steve Arnold sets out to investigate a world of which he knows nothing. Orchestra members vouch for Furtwangler's morality--he did what he could to protect Jewish players from his orchestra. To the Germans, deeply respectful of their musical heritage, Furtwangler was a demigod; to Major Arnold, he is just a lying, weak-willed Nazi. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
When Emmi is buying records from the vendor she asks in German the price of the records. The vendor replies five hundred. He should have said "fünf", five in German. Since she is German there is no reason for the English number. See more »
thought provoking story, delicate showmanship and excellent acting
Art vs. politics; the ethical dilemmas of talented artists when politics approaches them; this has always been István Szabó's favourite topic. Already the Oscar-winner Mephisto featured a talented actor selling his soul to the Nazis. This time the story is based on real-life events: while most of his colleagues fled the country, Wilhelm Furtwängler, this truly exceptional conductor stayed in Germany during the Nazi era and continued his career with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. His "collaboration" provoked strong accusations after the war.
The film is the story of the investigation by the American post-war authorities to decide whether the accusations of collaboration are valid. The film presents two ethical answers. The first one is stated by the American officer (played excellently by Harvey Keitel), who believes that Furtwängler is morally guilty, as he accepted a shining career from the Nazi's hand. The second answer is presented by Furtwängler himself who tries to defend himself by stating that in order to help (by "help" he both meant practical assistance - as he did save many Jews during the war - and a spiritual message - as he claimed that his music maintained the inner good in his nation's soul even in the time of Evil) he had to compromise with the Nazis, but he never really collaborated with them. The film itself (despite its title) does not take side, although it seems to sympathize with Furtwängler as an artist and generally presents the American officer as an ignorant and illiterate person. However, as the investigation proceeds, this aggressive and obnoxious person asks questions that are very hard to answer: is it acceptable to make such a compromise with a regime that kills 6 million Jews? Is it really so that Furtwängler made the compromise with the idea of helping people in need? Or rather, did he make it to advance his career?
The film has triggered exciting conversations with my friends who have differing opinions. I think these lengthy talks are the best proof that this is an excellent film and it has achieved its aim.
The story has several layers (I particularly liked the way differences of American and German cultures are presented), the characters are exciting and well played: if you like thought-provoking movies, go for this one!
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