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This Historian is awed by the effort for accuracy
wforstchen21 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I teach a college course on WWII, in graduate school studied under several experts on the subject and have interviewed numerous survivors on both sides. This film comes out on top, perhaps the finest ever made on the subject of the war (though the Belorussian "Come and See" & "Schindler's List" are darn close as well).

I had the remarkable experience of watching this film last night with two veterans, one a GI who fought from Omaha to Czechoslovakia. . .and a German infantry officer, a veteran of four years on the Eastern Front. The German, who met Hitler several times, within minutes was exclaiming over the historical accuracy, right down to "Hitler's" lower class Munich accent. . .something an American audience would never pick up on. My German friend, who at the end of the war was in East Prussia, in the debacle of attempting to evacuate over a million civilians ahead of the Russians, was profoundly shaken by the film. . .saying the horror, the hospital scenes, the utter chaos, the lynchings, the sight of 12 year old children fighting. . .all of it was real. And an interesting observation by him. . .he had no idea Berlin, at the end, had been as bad as what he witnessed along the Baltic coast and is still haunted by. It truly was "Gotterdammerung" for an entire nation and this film brings it frightfully close to you. If you are a parent of small children, the terrifying ending for the Goebbel's children is an absolutely searing nightmare.

I think the most important point of the film was the portrayal of Hitler. . .not as the stereotyped raving madman, usually overplayed like a bad performance of King Richard, but far more subtle. I've talked with many who knew Hitler, including a childhood playmate of Helga, Goebbel's oldest child, and all will tell you that Hitler could be absolutely charming, focused on you, even courtly when with women. The terror is, that even as the actor shows us that "human" side, in his soft voice he is dictating orders, observations, and comments of absolute evil. The true form of evil rarely looks evil on the surface, it seduces us with a fair face as it leads, sometimes an entire nation, into damnation. THis film captured that evil.

My German friend's comment at the end of the movie. . ."I still can not believe we fought for that monster for six years."

A history professor at Montreat College
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Impressive achievement, realistic and shocking
nosiesnetnieuws24 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This film definitely is a must-see because of the incomparable degree of realism displayed in it. Direction, camera and acting are of an unparalleled level and make you, as the viewer, feel as if you are actually in Berlin, 1945, and in the Führer's bunker. The film does not provide any commentary or judgment, it just shows facts.

The film is criticized because it gives the Nazi's a human face, but this is exactly it's strongest point: the Nazi's were not extraterrestrial monsters, they were as human as you and I. The image of Hitler crying of sorrow because all is lost, is still burned on my retina.

In my opinion, this is a film that should be shown in schools to illustrate the Second World War with. It is probably impossible to provide a more realistic account, without *any* form of judgment.

A major achievement, even for Germany as a whole. It is very brave to create such a realistic film about one's own past.
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Amazing realism
Hermes Brandt12 November 2004
Der Untergang makes you live the horrors and craziness of war. Bruno Ganz's interpretation of Adolf Hitler is worthy of an Oscar. He is completely believable. Also the rest of the cast performs admirably. You feel transported to Berlin as it was bombarded by the Russians. You get a very clear insight (or an impression?) in how the military decisions were taken during those final days of the war. The movie balances well between large-scale effects of bombs exploding in ruined streets and depictions of different persons going though the experience – from Hitler and his staff in the well-protected bunkers to the principal military commanders torn between reason and loyalty and German civilians trapped in an inferno. The movie is neither pro-Nazi nor does it depict all Nazis as mindless monsters. It gives an impression of utter realism. Go see it in a good cinema – your seat will tremble as the bombs explode. A nine out of ten.
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The Most Impressive, Depressive and Realistic Dramatic Movie about the World War II
Claudio Carvalho19 January 2006
"Der Untergang" is certainly the most impressive, depressive and realistic dramatic movie about the World War II ever made. I have never seen a film picturing the insanity of Hitler in his very last days in a bunker in Berlin with his high command, and how the German people were hypnotized by him like in this film. Last year, I saw the deceptive, boring, pretentious and overrated "Molokh", showing a caricature of Hitler and Eva Braun in Bavaria. But "Der Untergang" is awesome and comparable to "Apocalypse Now!", my favorite movie of war.

Two years ago, I saw the powerful "Das Experiment" and I was impressed with the work of Oliver Hirschbiegel. With "Der Untergang", this director is certainly included in my list of favorite directors. It is difficult to highlight one actor or actress in this constellation of stars, but I was impressed with the performance of Bruno Ganz and his "human" Hitler, totally different from the stereotypes usual in other movies. The cinematography and the battles are stunning, and the scenario of Berlin completely destroyed recalled the neo-realistic movie of Roberto Rossellini "Germania Anno Zero".

For those who know Germany and German people, it is amazing to see how this wonderful country survived to the chaos, destruction and lack of command, arrived from the ashes like Phoenix and sixty years later is again one of the greatest nations. For those who might have believed in Hitler and his Nazi Party, it is impressive to see how people is forgotten and treated without compassion by their leader in his last hours. And for those who love war, I really recommend to watch this magnificent anti-war movie, and see the behavior of the leaders and population when a war is lost. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "A Queda! As Últimas Horas de Hitler" ("The Fall! The Last Hours of Hitler")
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A deeply disturbing, intimate portrait of the insanity of Hitler and the blind faith of his followers at the end.
ilovedolby5 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In recent years, war films have given a new exposure to the sheer nature of war. In "Saving Private Ryan," "Black Hawk Down" and "Born on the Fourth of July," we were exposed to the realities that a soldier endures not only on the battlefield, but what they take with them long after the battles end. However, "Downfall," a German film nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2005 Oscars, brings a unique perspective to the table. It is about the last days of Hitler and the Third Reich and the ultimate demise of both. More so than a war movie, this feature exposes the insanity of Hitler and the blind faith of his followers at the end. It is a deeply disturbing, intimate portrait of the cruelty that he inflicted not only upon 6 million Jews, but ultimately on his own countryman at the end.

Based on the book "Inside Hitler's Bunker" by Joachim Fest, "Downfall" is in a word, shocking. The last act in the great horrific play of the Third Reich plays out like that of a cult—so many men and woman who swore allegiance to Hitler commit suicide by either shooting themselves in the head or by ingesting poison capsules. But the madness of Hitler himself is horrifically captivating. He changes his mind and opinion on a whim. One moment he advises his SS-Guards and Generals to leave the city after learning that he does not have enough troops to protect Berlin. A particular one named Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein , who was Eva Braun's brother-in-law, takes the Fuhrer for his word and leaves Berlin. When Hitler realizes this, he denounces Fegelein and orders him executed. What is more, Hitler discusses the final demise of the German people. He explains that this failure is not only that of the military, but of the civilians themselves. As such, his soldiers do not protect the people from the coming onslaught of the Soviet Army. He advises, "In a war as such there are no civilians."

Hitler is recreated by the superlative performance of Bruno Ganz, who appeared in the 2004 remake of "The Manchurian Candidate." Ganz captures the movement, voice, even the involuntary shaking of Hitler's left hand so well, that the audience would feel as if they are watching the dictator himself. We are often left with shivers down our spine at how realistic Ganz's depiction is.

Surprisingly enough, Thomas Kretschmann, who played the Nazi captain that gave Wladyslaw Szpilman a coat and food in "The Pianist" is seen here as Fegelein. I first noticed Kretschmann as a German U-Boat commander in 2000s, "U-571." He is a remarkable actor who brings with him a demanding presence on the screen through his stern looks and ultimate resolve.

Unfortunately my knowledge of Eva Braun other than Hitler's mistress is limited. So it was refreshing to see a film that revealed her. Based on "Downfall's" depiction, Braun, portrayed by Juliane Kohler, was either one of the shallowest individuals I have ever seen, or she was so blinded by her faith in Hitler that she disregarded almost any sense of reality. For example, during Berlin's first days of bombardment, she becomes bored with being in the bunker and orders a party in an above ball room—not surprisingly during that party a shell lands nearby and blows out windows in the room. Secondly, during later heavy bombardment, realizing that she will commit suicide with Hitler, she writes a letter to a relative where she states what jewelry she will leave behind. She is simply detached from reality and lost in the fanatical jargon of the Fuhrer.

Certainly the film's most disturbing instances occur when Magda and Joseph Goebbels poison their children in the name of the Fatherland. One of their children, a girl probably about 10 years old, has a dim understanding of what is happening and refuses to take the drink given. She is then forced to drink it by her mother and a guard. Later on, Magda would come into her children's room while they were asleep and would give them the final capsule to eliminate them.

"Downfall" is certainly one of the most powerful film's I have ever seen. As stated above, Hitler and his followers played out their existence as if they were in a cult. The blind faith of his followers and the insanity of the man are so well realized by director Oliver Herschbiegel, that it changes one's perception from that of simply being history to that of realism.

These events happened less than a century ago and although most have learned to forgive Germany's past, no one will ever forget it. It is the stigma that haunts this generation of German youth because many of their grandparents or great-grandparents were a part of one of history's most infamous armies. But the fact that this film is German was surprising to me. I would have guessed that no one in Germany would have wanted to dig up their past in this way. However, if one looks at this film as closure to Germany's transgressions, then maybe this new generation of German youth can learn to have a sense of national identity without the horrors of the past seen in their shadows. **** out of ****
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A truer rendition of Hitler I've never seen...
Adam Mezei15 September 2004
Not since perhaps Rod Steiger's portrayal of Benito Mussolini in Moustapha Akkad's LION OF THE DESERT (1980) have I seen a notorious dictator more realistically acted than Bruno Ganz's stunning display as "Der Fuerer" in The Downfall (2004).

Sitting amongst a full-house of patrons here at the Toronto Int'l Film Festival's 2004 edition, Ganz captivated the local audience with the scariest Hitler I've ever seen up on the silver screen -- better than Noah Taylor's English Hitler in MAX just a couple of years back.

Audience members get a glimpse into the final days of Hitler's rule from the bunker deep beneath the Reich Chancellery in Nazi Berlin's dying days. The defeated spirit of the Nazis -- covered extensively in the history books -- has seldomly been more penetratingly shown on the Big Screen. Bravo to director Oliver Hirschbiegel for doing this the right (German) way -- for intrepidly tackling a period piece few German producers might.

I'd had a chance to chat with the actors post-screening, with lead actress Alexandra Maria Lara (playing Traudl Junge) candidly admitting the sheer amount of work she'd diligently invested in bringing her character to life -- doubtless complicated by the death of Frau Junge in 2002. Her research, however, was clearly impeccable and left no stone unturned. Corinna Harfouch wasn't on hand -- as Magda Goebbels. Pity because in many respects, she convincingly stole the show.

So rarely do we see Hitler on screen in modern days to allow us a glimpse into the horrifying nature of a madman bent on global domination. We all know the end of this story, but seldom does a film so masterfully suspend your disbelief than does The Downfall in making you wonder just how the Third Reich might end. Historical fiction might never be the same.
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The last days at the bunker
jotix10019 March 2005
This magnificent film goes where no one else dared to go to show us the last days of Adolf Hitler. The director, Oliver Hirshbiegel, working with a big cast, brings to life the madness of the last days of the monster, as observed by a young and impressionable secretary who witnessed most of the crisis.

At the beginning of the film we watch as five young women are brought to be interviewed by Hitler for a job as his personal secretary. Young Traudl Junge is selected. She is a pretty woman who is naive in many ways and probably had no inkling about the trip she was going to embark.

The film captures the tragic figure of Hitler as everything is caving in on him and his grand plans for victory. We watch a man at the beginning of the film that is still thinking he is in command of the German forces, but his authority has eroded, as it becomes clear to the people under him the war is lost and it will be a matter of time before they are defeated.

We watch the life of privilege the higher ups led inside the bunker. It was a fortification in which all comforts the regular Germans could not imagine existed. We get to know the people in Hitler's inner circle. The Goebbels, both Joseph and Magda, supporters of the regime, maintain the loyalty to the Fuhrer until the end. The scene where Magda Goebbels murders her children is hard to take and we keep sinking in our seats, as we can't believe such cruelty existed. In her narrow view of things, Magda must take her family with her to a death these children didn't deserve.

The film is totally dominated by Bruno Ganz. As Hitler, he makes us see this man as he probably was in real life. Mr. Ganz's uncanny resemblance with Hitler is what makes the film works the way it does. At times, Mr. Ganz is totally irrational, and at times, he is presented as a lost man who can't see what he has done to Germany and to Europe and the world.

As Traudl Junge, the young secretary, Alexandra Maria Lara gives a subtle performance. She saw plenty inside the bunker and lived to tell it to the world. The other excellent performance is given by Corinna Harfouch, who as Mrs. Goebbels makes us cringe in horror because of what she is capable of doing. Juliane Kohler, as Eva Braun, is an enigma. At times, she is presented as a carefree young woman who might have loved Hitler. Yet, we don't ever know what made this Eva Braun tick. Ulrich Matthes as Joseph Goebbels and Heino Ferch as Albert Speer are equally effective playing these two men.

The director and his team have to be congratulated for taking us on a voyage to see the last moments of the Third Reich.
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The Best WWII movie ever.
duret-114 December 2004
'Der Untergang' is probably the only WW2 movie I've ever seen, which only deals with facts and is utterly deprived of any form of commercialism whatsoever. Bruno Ganz is truly excellent in his role as Adolf Hitler, a tired man who sees his "Reich" fall, but cannot accept it. Overall (type)casting is very good; all the actors chosen to portray a famous/notorious character look a lot like the real deal, especially Goebbels. Although I'm not a fan of long war movies, these 2,5 hours passed very quickly due to excellent acting, great sets, FX and storyline. Somehow, every scene is dripping with underlying tension that never really explodes; a kind of unsettling unbelieved grips you when you see seemingly ordinary people commit astonishing atrocities and sins towards mankind, just for their faith and loyalty to one man, Hitler, who himself walks the edge of reason.

Great movie : 10/10 without a doubt.
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This movie has physically touched me!
Shc-Shc28 February 2005
I don't know what to say about this film. I am almost speechless.

First of all, this is almost PERFECT cinema, beautifully shot, acted, lit, staged and on and on. BUt it is also the only film in recent memory that had an almost physical impact on me. I left feeling disoriented and very disquieted, a feeling that lasted for several hours.

What we have here is an exercise in patience. A film that allows us to watch the disintegration of the largest empire in modern history, from the inside out. Beginning after the start of the siege of Berlin, the bulk of the film takes place in the cramped bunkers below the city, where Hitler and his officers are trapped like rats on a sinking ship, aware of their fate, but not smart enough, not willing enough, or maybe incapable of escaping the fates they created for themselves.

This is a daring, brilliant film with a virtuoso performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler. He shows us that beneath the genocidal, world changing shell of hatred that the globe knew, Hitler was still that petty, hatefilled, failed art-student that he was before becoming the greatest villain in history.

awesome, awesome, awesome movie.
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Brilliant Depiction Of The Effects Of War
bs3dc24 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Downfall is the gripping depiction of the last few days of the Second World War in Europe, as the Russians advance into Berlin and approach ever nearer the bunker of Adolf Hitler who still believes their advance can be stopped...

Bruno Ganz turns in a terrific performance as Hitler, paying great attention to detail (including the regional accent and the effects of Parkinson's disease) that really make him into a believable person which is a lot more frightening to watch than the usual two-dimensional characterisations that are usually seen on screen. Ganz manages to dominate the screen with the same effectiveness that allowed Hitler to get followers of such devotion that despite his atrocities and the horror of the situation many are prepared to stay with him and fight to the death while the possibility of escape or surrender remains open to them. He is almost schizophrenic - at some moments he is almost gentle, such as some of the scenes with his secretary, then shortly afterwards he is practically foaming at the mouth in his contempt for the civilian population of Berlin who he will not raise a finger to try to save by surrendering to the Allies.

The other actors are not very well known - at least on the international arena, but this added greatly to the authentic feel. Some of the senior Nazi leaders are hardly more sympathetic than their Fuhrer - Himmler in particular shows only personal ambition while pretending loyalty. Other characters such as the caring SS doctor who finds elderly patients simply abandoned in a hospital or the father who desperately tries to persuade his son who must be around 12-14 not to get involved and perish in a hopeless cause are succinctly realised.

The film is expertly shot, with the unreal atmosphere in the bunker captured perfectly where Hitler raves about army units that barely or cease to exist coming to the rescue of the Reich and orders oilfields re-captured for 'long distance missions' when the Russian troops are barely a few hundred metres away.

There is no glory shown in the battle scenes as the outcome is always a foregone conclusion making the resulting deaths even more moving. Watching young children and old men trying to hold off the Russian advance with inadequate weaponry is tragic in the knowledge that they are dying for no real purpose other than the whims of a handful of madmen.

Very few films have depicted the tragic waste of life that war provokes better than Downfall and this turns out to be one of the best movies concerning the conflict that claimed over 50 million lives.
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A mesmerizing experience and one that will hopefully remind people all over the world that history may never repeat itself!
Coventry18 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
All I can say about "Der Untergang" is: WOW! This is one of those rare films that prove that the darkest pages in our world history easily surpass the fiction tales of the most imaginative fantasist. This soon-to-be landmark in cinema portrays the final ten days of Hitler's reign at the well hidden bunker in Berlin. In the opening sequences, we see how the Führer hires Traudl Junge (flawless performance by Alexandra Maria Lara) as his personal secretary and we largely witness the rest of the story from her viewpoint. Recent documentary footage with the real Junge is showed to audience at the end of the movie, stressing even more that this is a very intelligent and carefully elaborated production. A form of criticism I often encountered stated that Hitler was portrayed too "human" by the Swiss actor Bruno Ganz. Let me tell you that people who claim this haven't got the slightest clue what they're talking about! It's true that Hitler sometimes strokes his dog…or even gives a compliment to his servant for cooking him such a lovely dinner! But only moments after, you're exposed to the real Hitler again! Alternately a mad-raving dictator, a disillusioned conqueror or simply a pathetic old man. But perhaps the most astonishing scenes in "Der Untergang" are the ones in which the persons close to Hitler – either professional or amicable – remain unconditionally loyal to him! It is deeply disturbing to behold how so many people blindly swear by the unworldly beliefs of a madman, even prepared to follow him into death. This accurate portrait results in a series of brilliant sequences with the severely shocking fate of the Goebbels family as an absolute highlight.

Purely talking in terms of cinema, "Der Untergang" comes dangerously close to perfection as well. The largest part of this film exists out of interior shots, more specifically the bunker-network where Hitler lasted his final days and eventually committed suicide. And the atmosphere inside this bunker is reflected on the movie-screen as genuine as humanly possible. You can nearly smell the fear of the lower-ranked officers! You can almost feel the shivering of the petrified secretaries! I really hate using a cliché sentence like this but…it's true…it's like you are there yourself! And you don't want to be there! Even the totally demolished streets of Berlin looks look more appealing than the claustrophobic Nazi bunker. This despicable chapter in history deserves an accurate and well-budgeted cinema version, if only just for passing on the inglorious stories of WWII to younger generations. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel terrifically turned Joachim Fest's novel into a mesmerizing film experience. Perhaps the most praiseworthy aspect about it all is that "Der Untergang" simply is a reconstruction of the facts! No lame and amateurish attempts to blame Hitler's actions on miserable childhoods or traumatizing experiences. Simply put: this is fundamental viewing!
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SithApprentice12 November 2004
Considering the fact how hard it is to make an adequate movie about the Third Rich and especially Hitler himself, "Der Untergang" is a superb portrayal of the last days of Hitler, his minions and the Third Rich. First of all, Bruno Ganz' performance is magnificent, brilliant, perfect. You're beginning to think he IS the Fuehrer, his look, his mannerism, his sick philosophy of life and his downfall are absolutely convincing. After seeing him you can finally understand why so many people back then were attracted by his charisma, but thanks to Ganz' performance you do not forget about the terrible crimes he committed by his followers and about the evil inside the sick soul of this man. His minions weren't that important in this movie, except for Joseph Goebbels and his family. Heinrich Himmler, the ReichsfuehrerSS, was portrayed as the man he was: an idiotic coward, who was in great part responsible for the Holocaust and still believed in a peace agreement with the allied forces, although this idea was completely out of place. Albert Speer as one of the less criminal national socialists was also quite good interpreted. Martin Bormann, Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, 3 other important Nazis, got too few screen time, and Hermann Goering didn't even show up, he was just mentioned. I think Goebbels wasn't portrayed that authentic as he could have, due to the fact he was the most intelligent of Hitler's inner circle, but in some scenes he seemed like someone who could just repeat his own slogans. The part about Traudl Junge and the boy from the Volkssturm, Peter, was also quite good, but it was clearly overshadowed by the Hitler/ minion part. There are also some surprisingly well done battle- sequences taking place in Berlin, in which you can also see a part of the pretty high amount of blood and violence, for example when a soldier gets shot through his head, some officers are committing suicide or the killing of the Goebbels children, a scene which gave me the chills. Due to it's high authenticity, great actors and an important message, this movie could become as important as Schindler's List already is, in order to show today's youth the insanity of Hitler and the whole Third Rich and to make them avoid racist and extreme right wing organisations. All in all, this is one of the best German flicks I've ever seen - although there isn't such a huge number of good German movies. 10/10
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Shot with nerve-shredding realism...
Nazi_Fighter_David24 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Few films have dared to touch WWII objectively from a German point of view; most use the Germans as great villains and Allied forces as great heroes... Movies like "Patton" show brief sights into German military thinking while "The Pianist" finds a good cultured German officer in a nightmare scenario…

"Downfall" tells the story of the Führer's final hours, his last critical 12 days in a fortified bunker below the Reich Chancellery, while the Soviet Army was slowly taking over Berlin and their artillery bombarding the whole the city…

Mostly through the eyes of his young Bavarian secretary, Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) we see the ailing and obviously delusional Führer allowing no negotiation with the Allied forces, raving about how his generals betrayed him, ordering the movement of troops that do not exist, screaming that the German people do not deserve to survive for their apparent treachery and cowardice…

But what has come under criticism is the film's attempt at giving Hitler—whose face has become symbolic for the epitome of evil—a compassionate side… He's "Uncle Hitler" to the children of Josef Goebbles who happily sings for him, so loving for his blonde wife Eva Brown, so kind to his pet dog Blondi, so caring when he awards a young boy (who showed great bravery in the face of the enemy) with a medal and pinches his cheek, and so gentle when he pins a medal on Magda Goebbels for being the 'bravest mother in the Reich'.

It's easy to see why the film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film Category… It takes you inside the minds of Hitler's faithful, showing you how it was that one infamous man could be so charismatic and magnetic… Although his closest advisors, the remaining dedicated members of the Nazi government, know that there is no hope, no one was seen willing to challenge his orders or attempt to seize power… And many opted for suicide after living out their final hours in obscene denial, singing and dancing champagne glass in hand…

But Hitler's dark side is also shown when the film depicts his hate and antipathy for the Jews; when one of the more "rational" members of the Nazi hierarchy, Albert Speer (Heino Ferch), stated gently but bluntly to him that the war was lost and he did not follow his orders to destroy the infrastructure in German cities; also when he becomes convinced that Heinrich Himmler (Ulrich Noethen) has betrayed him and must be executed; and when Eva Braun pleads him for her brother-in-law's life, the tormented Hermann Fegelin (Thomas Kretschmann), and he furiously rejected her request…

One of the most horrifying sequences that is unforgettable was that of Magda Goebbles played by Corinna Harfouch… It is astonishing to witness how an unstoppable steely mother, with no hesitation or remorse, is capable of such atrocities for a blind and irrational loyalty to a 'charming' monster…

Ganz's character is equally psychotic and human, capable of shooting even his most loyal followers and utterly believable as Uncle Hitler…

Juliane Köhler complements Ganz's exceptional performance with her own chillingly fine one as the ultimate blind follower whose loyalty to her Führer never flagged… Köhler shows us how she can be drunkenly carefree dancing to swing as bombs and artillery shake the walls of the bunker one day, and in another day applying a fresh coat of red lipstick to her fleshy lips before she takes one cyanide tablet for the man she preferred not to live without…

"Downfall" may be considered powerful and historically significant… It is a must for history buffs…
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A Masterpiece
wbhome4 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have been fascinated not only by the movie (I have watched this now 10 times) but the divergence of opinion - with some Germans saying it was terrible. This I don't understand.

In the West from the time of Charlie Chaplin Hitler was portrayed as a raving lunatic - but to me that does not explain his rise to power. A lunatic could not nearly conquer and enslave half the world. In his early rise to power, he was ridiculed in the West.

The fact that this movie gives him some human qualities makes him all the more chilling. There is a dialog between the Junge character and the Braun character that perfectly summarizes Hitler. They talked of the great gulf between the private man and the public man. The Braun character said that she had known the man for 15 years - and yet she knew nothing of him.

I believe to truly understand the movie one must also watch the movie with the director's commentary. Everything about this movie - with the exception of 2 things mentioned by the director - (which having just read the spoiler agreement I will refrain from mentioning - everything was based on fact, which makes the movie all the more dramatic. And the movie characters make some minor statements - based on fact - that would be lost on the audience without outside knowledge of those historical facts.

Small case in point: The Eva Braun character is telling the Traudl Junge character that she "so looked forward to coming to Berlin" with the inference (to me) that she hadn't seen Hitler for awhile. Then I read elsewhere that she was in Obersaltzburg for 6 months away from Hitler prior to coming to Berlin. The director stated that he wanted this movie to be treated not only as a drama - but a documentary. He succeeded in both.

I suppose this movie is controversial - a local reviewer said it tried to make Hitler sympathetic by giving him some human qualities but as someone else said this makes him all the more evil. It is these human qualities that make him a believable entity - kind to many individuals, indifferent and murderous to millions. And with the end he was indifferent to the fate of his own people, who were dying for him.

Watching this movie made me think that the German people's initial support of Hitler followed a plot from Goethe - that a Mephistopheles - a demon in disguise - promises the recipient all that he wants in return for his soul. This of course is a theme that has subsequently replayed countlessly in western literature since Goethe's Faustus.

This movie is based not only on Junge's book and Fest's book, but interviews with some of the survivors of the bunker.

I would recommend not only the movie but then watch it with commentary from the director a second time. It is all the more haunting when you realize that virtually everything was based on fact during Berlin's last days.

Bruno Ganz - as all the cast - turned in an excellent performance. Watching Ganz in this performance was watching Hitler. You will feel as if you too are a witness in the Bunker.

The beginning and end statements by the real secretary Traudl Junge make the movie even more powerful. This movie was so moving for me that I have bought Traudl Junge's book, "Until the Last Hour".

In the US on the DVD it is said it was nominated for "best foreign picture" - if it didn't win, it should have.
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An excellent rendition reflecting historiographical trends of the past years.
William L. Chew III6 February 2005
"Der Untergang" ("The Downfall") portrays life inside (and to an extent outside) the "Führerbunker" in Berlin during the last few weeks prior to Hitler's suicide in April, 1945. The screenplay was written by Bernd Eichinger, who has had previous experience with the adaptation of historical material for cinema, and done a commendable job in the process. I am, of course, referring to his screen version of Umberto Ecco's historical novel "The Name of the Rose (1986). Some of Eichinger's other credits include "Body of Evidence" (1993, which he co-produced) and "The NeverEnding Story" (1984, as producer).

Few movies have stirred up as much controversy even before their release, as has "Der Untergang." So what was all the fuss about, and was it warranted? After all, how many films have been made about Hitler already, including several about Hitler in his Berlin bunker. There is nothing especially controversial about the subject matter per se. What is more, Hirschbiegel and Eichinger appear to have done their homework, basing the film extensively on German historian Joachim Fest's acclaimed book of the same name (2003). Events are portrayed largely through the eyes of Traudl Junge, Hitler's private secretary from 1943–when the film opens with a flashback sequence to her job interview and appointment–to his death. Her memoirs, and interviews conducted before her death, constitute a further source for the film. The Führer himself is played magisterially by Bruno Ganz, who clearly spent countless hours studying Hitler's public speeches, as well as rare footage of the private man, not to mention recordings of his voice. For a historian like myself, who has viewed and listened to much of the material myself, it is uncanny how right Ganz gets it. Inflection, tonality, accent–they are all there. As are gestures and body language. This film has to be seen in the original, even if you don't understand German.

So if there is little in the way of subject matter, preparation, historical consulting, and prime acting to fault, why then the controversy? The approach and interpretation were at the root of the hullabaloo. Interviewed while the film was in the making, Eichinger explained that he would portray Hitler "as a man, as a human" ("wie ein Mensch.") This was revolutionary in cinema, where renditions of the Nazi leader have–pre-Eichinger–still not gone far beyond the "evil-dictator" approach. You might reasonably query what is wrong with the "evil dictator" approach, given the accepted fact that he was, indeed, evil. From a historian's perspective, everything is wrong with that approach, and Eichinger had the courage to transcend it for the broad public.

The first two decades of post-World War II historians pretty much demonized Hitler, as did all movies before "Der Untergang." This was understandable, at the time. Wounds were still fresh, denazification was under way, Germans were seeking a new democratic identity aligned with the West, and the issue of "collective guilt" was touchy. Solid, balanced biographies of Hitler had not yet been written, and historical understanding of how it was possible that a highly cultured people such as the Germans could have been led astray was only just beginning to take shape. But with the 1964 revision of Lord Alan Bullock's "A Study in Tyranny" (1st ed. 1952) and Joachim Fest's "Hitler: Eine Biographie" (1973) professional historians started putting demonetization to rest and instead began to explain. And this meant accepting the perhaps distasteful tenet that Hitler was, after all, a man, and not some kind of deranged satanic figure from hell. Sir Ian Kershaw, Professor of Modern History at the University of Sheffield, has taken things even further, in his highly accessible two-volume (2000 page!) magnum opus which has now become the standard biography (published 1998-2000). For Kershaw has not only reconciled the internationalist (or "Hitler-centric") approach, which focuses on Hitler as linchpin and leader of the Third Reich, without whom World War II and the Holocaust are unthinkable; with the structuralist approach, which links Hitler and his "enabling" to social, political and cultural structures in Weimar Germany. Kershaw has also gone a long way towards meeting the desideratum of German historian Martin Broszat, uttered as far back as the 1970s, for the "historicization" of Third Reich history, meaning its firm embedding in overall German, European, and indeed World History, rather than its artificial isolation as an "aberration" or a "German special path" ("deutscher Sonderweg.") This, then, is the proper historiographical context of "Der Untergang." In effect, the film almost belatedly follows trends in scholarship that have been developing for some time now. Of course, the general public is hardly aware of such developments. So in a sense, the film is something of a vulgarization, a kind of dramatization informed by the best scholarship. The film does not explain, for it is, after all, not a documentary with the voice-over of a historical consultant cum narrator. That is not its purpose. What it does, however, is provide an excellent sense of Hitler in his declining days, increasingly delusional if perhaps not outright insane, but still able–almost to the bitter end–to maintain a hold on his closest followers. Not to mention the unreality of life in the sheltered bunker, while outside the Russians are advancing through Berlin suburbs, held back only by a pathetic hodge-podge of Hitler youth and tired old men drafted into service in the Volkswehr. From all accounts I have read, from the pens of scholars English, American and German, I can say with a high degree of certitude that this film provides a reasonably authentic recreation of what it must have been like. Or in the words of Leopold von Ranke, "wie es eigentlich gewesen." What higher acclaim can a historian provide?
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this is the best....
sjcsiba21 December 2004
Who better to make a WWII film than the Germans themselves? This is possibly the best WWII film I have seen yet. It is a very intense movie about the final days of Adolf Hitler (a SUPERB roll played by Bruno Ganz, he should get at least one Oscar for this...) which had me coming back to see the movie a second and even a third time (I saw T3 only twice, he he). And not only Bruno Ganz has done a great performance, the entire cast gives it all their best. Very good film indeed.

As I said, it's a film about Adolf Hitlers final days, trapped in a bunker in Berlin, while the Russians are slowly moving closer. Hitler losing his faith in a 'good' outcome, the final bullet, everything is has happened for real. But when I left the cinema I had the idea I had just been watching a fictional story. A perfect script, made in real life 59 years ago. Not much to say about anything else. If you are interested in WWII stuff, go see it in the cinema, it's worth every penny.
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Distanced and sober view of Hitler's last days
Thomas Engels12 November 2004
The first 15 minutes made me doubt the qualities of this movie. The situations were a bit forced and the cuts were strange. But after the uncomfortable beginning the movie took momentum and kept it until the end.

I think the choice of depicting Hitler as a human being with a dispassionate and modest direction was excellent. The film never tries to force viewers into an opinion. Everybody can form his own opinion. Too often the horrors of WWII led writers and directors to depict Nazis as monsters. Perfectly normal human beings can be cruel and merciless if they are blinded (by hate for example), which should never be forgotten.

In a way, a human Hitler to me is more guilty than a raving monster. He had the choice and he chose to do wrong. He could choose life and he chose murder and destruction. A human being lost respect for the life of other human beings and led a country into genocide. Ultimately he loses respect for all life and starts sacrificing his own soldiers at random. This is what I value this film for, making the idea of a human Hitler tangible.

It was very brave to make this film, given that controversy was almost certain to arise. One of the highlights of this year, to be sure.
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A magnificent piece of cinema. Spectacular in every respect
The_Void21 April 2005
Truly great movies are few and far between these days; but Der Untergang most definitely represents one of those rare occasions. Oliver Hirschbiegel, who brought us the wonderful 'Das Experiment' has produced a film that is very nearly perfect. Depicting the final ten days of Hitler and the National Socialist regime, Der Untergang or 'The Downfall' to give it it's English title is an expose of failure and the way that a madman can bend a whole nation into doing his bidding. The film is very realistic, and an excellent ensemble cast breathe life and believability into the roles of the various members of the Nazi party and because every performance is picture perfect, the whole thing comes together brilliantly as one whole piece. Bruno Ganz gives the central performance as the Fuhrer himself and it is one of the greatest performances I've ever seen in a film. His portrayal of Hitler in the middle of his downfall is absolutely perfect, and Ganz excellently portrays the man's every emotion. It must be difficult to play such a notorious character as Hitler himself, but Ganz rises to the occasion and gives it his all.

It is not the acting or the realism that is Der Untergang's main claim to greatness, however - it's the double meaning behind every scene. Each one is perfectly composed, and all the time you're watching you can not only see what's happening on screen but also take note of the implications surrounding it. Through every scene, there's always the notion that a nation is falling. That's another thing that's great about this movie - the way that it manipulates the audience into an awkward situation. On the one hand, we know that Hitler and the Nazi regime were unspeakably evil; but while we're watching this almost great nation crumble around it's leader, it is hard to watch without feeling some sympathy for the country, in spite of the ideals that were preached. I thought it would be impossible to generate feelings for the Nazi's; but Der Untergang has managed even that. 'The Downfall' is an apt title for this movie, as aside from depicting an important event in history; the film is fundamentally about failure. The entire movie focuses on one man's huge downfall, and it is both a heartbreaking and powerful cinematic experience. Der Untergang is not to be missed.
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'Saving Private Ryan' without the schmaltzy overtones.
justincward29 June 2008
You couldn't really expect to make a 'typical' movie out of the story of last days of the archetypal fascist dictator. 'Untergang' seeks to illustrate the situation of 'sane' people under the control of a madman; that and the impending arrival of the Red Army is the only dramatic jeopardy available - no romantic interlude, nothing to achieve, no sentimental buddy rescue shtick. We witness the reactions of people like you and me (and don't be silly enough to imagine I include Goebbels, etc. - I mean people doing their jobs under impending calamity) who happened to be in the wrongest place at the wrongest time. If this dilemma doesn't absorb you, it's a fault of your imagination, not of the utterly brilliant recreation of something very few people survived to bear witness to. 'Untergang' doesn't seek to make a judgment of Hitler because it doesn't need to: all you need to appreciate is his increasing detachment from reality and the way that this divides the people stuck with him. If there's any sort of judgment, it's of the herd mentality of people as a whole. The film becomes a series of stunning docu-vignettes of the various levels of humanity involved, each one posing the question 'What would YOU have done?'. This film is thought-provoking, and that naturally makes many denizens of the internet uncomfortable.
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It's amazing and unbelievably realistic... Go see it people, NOW!!!
Philip Van der Veken15 February 2005
Having a huge interest in both World Wars and all that happened during the time period 1910-1950, I've seen a lot of movies and read even more books on the subject. Name me a more or less realistic war movie and I've probably seen it, so when "Der Untergang" was first released in Germany, I already knew I wanted to watch it as soon as it would be released over here. The commotion that it caused, the good critics that it got, all made me look forward to the day that I would see it, but really nothing could prepare me for what I saw... It was amazing, it was great, it was jaw-dropping...

The main criticism that many people had on this movie was that Hitler and the other Nazi party members looked too human. I know, some people expect that the leaders of the Third Reich are only shown as real monsters, as people who didn't have any human feelings... But that's not the truth. The truth is that, no matter how horrible the things they did, they still were human and (most of the time) acted like normal human beings (for instance Hitler who really loved his German shepherd or who had one of Goebbels' children sitting on his lap while they were singing a song for him...). And let's be honest: do you think a leader who doesn't care for his people's destiny after the war, who doesn't want to see the truth that the war is lost, who knows all too well that he sends young children into battle (he even decorates them personally), but doesn't care, a man who can be so kind and sweet one moment and than be furious and outraged the other moment, really looks like a kind, sweet grandfather??? I don't think so. The makers of this movie never intended to make him look like a nice or a bad man, they intended to show him the way he really was and they did an amazing job.

I've seen many documentaries about Hitler and read a lot of books about the man, so I think I can say I know quite well how he acted and reacted. Seeing Bruno Ganz as Hitler was a shock. He doesn't just look like Hitler, he IS Hitler in this movie!!! His performance was absolutely amazing and seeing him in this film really made shivers going down my spine. Hitler seemed to be alive again! If you've read so many books about the man as I did, you can only conclude that the resemblance is more than just remarkable, it is perfect.

But of course there were more actors in the movie than Bruno Ganz (an actor who I admire since I saw "Pane e Tulipani" or "Bread and Tulips" for the first time). Even though I have to admit that I don't really know any of them, I must say that they all did an excellent job. Juliane Köhler as Eva Brown, Corinna Harfouch as Magda Goebbels, Alexandra Maria Lara as Traudl Junge, Ulrich Matthes as Joseph Goebbels,... They all must have studied there characters for many hours, because they were all excellent.

As the horror and reality of the movie have only just ended and burned themselves on your retina for the rest of your life (By the end of the movie, you'll have seen many officers commit suicide, Hitler and Eva Brown being burned behind the bunker, the Goebbels murdering their children, people being hanged on a lantern for stupid reasons, young children dying as they try to defend Berlin...), you think you've had it all, but than the real Traudl Junge gives away a last testimony, looking back on her life with Hitler ... blowing you away even more. I can't remember that I've ever been so quiet after seeing a movie and apparently I wasn't the only one. Really no-one spoke a word during the first minutes after the lights went on again. I don't think many movies have ever touched the audience in such a deep way as this one did.

Because of its historical value and realism, this movie should be seen by everybody and especially by young people at school. Forget those history books for once, this will get through to them at least ten times better. I'm sure that everybody will admit that this movie is a true masterpiece. People who don't know anything about the subject will be able to learn a lot about it and people who already thought they knew it all will still find some new things and will admit that this is exactly the way it must have been 60 years ago. I think there can be only one appropriate score for this movie and that is a full 10/10. Go see it people, NOW!!!
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Probably the most accurate WW II movie I have ever seen
Marx_Bros_Fan8610 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of war movies have a sense of patriotism or commercialism, but Der Untergang feels like it is just giving you the cold hard facts of the last ten days of the Third Reich. I have to commend the filmmakers for not using black and white or filtering the color, like many other WW II movies today. It is becoming a cliché. The film is based on Traudl Junge's recollections of the last ten days she spent in Hitler's Bunker. It takes place entirely in the Bunker, which gives the film a very claustrophobic feel. As the outcome of the war becomes clearer, the Bunker becomes a cesspool of drunkenness, denial, and even death.

Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge has a strange relationship with him. She stays with him out of sympathy and loyalty, but she is often horrified by his cruelty and inhumanity. This might be difficult to understand but I believe this makes the movie all the more realistic. She can recognize cruelty when she sees it but Hitler is the Fuhrer, a man who is practically worshiped. Hitler is shown to have elements of humanity. He despises smoking, loves his dog Blondi, and genuinely seems to care for his secretaries and Dr. Goebbel's children. We can feel his sorrow as the Russians advance toward Berlin. His dream of a German Empire had been lost and it breaks his soul. One of my favorite shots in the film is that of Hitler staring silently at a picture of Frederick the Great, seemingly thinking about his failures.

This is not to say Der Untergang is pro Nazi. I believe that by portraying Hitler's humanity the film makes his crimes all the more terrible. If he was just a one dimensional monster that would be his excuse. The inhumanity of the Third Reich does emerge throughout the film. Hitler blames the German people for the defeat of the military, calling them cowards and saying they deserve their fate. Joseph Goebbels expresses similar sentiments. Magda Goebbels says she cannot live in a world without National Socialism, and poisons her children before committing suicide with her husband.

The film perfectly captures an aura of hopelessness and denial. Eva Braun throws a party in the middle of the Russian bombing, trying to get her mind off Germany's impending defeat. She does anything and everything to keep her mind off the war. Hitler orders his Generals to move Tank divisions that do not exist or are too crippled to be of any use. He blames his Generals for Germany's defeat and not himself, which he usually did in real life. People around Hitler are aware that the situation is hopeless and betray him to save their own skin.

In the midst of all the madness, some people have retained their sanity. Professor Schenck, a German Doctor, tries to help the wounded soldiers and civilians when his own government abandons them. Berlin is in ruins and people are left to fend for themselves. An old man tries to convince soldiers who are no more than thirteen that there is no point in fighting, but to no avail. Eva Braun's brother-in-law Fegelein tries to convince Braun to leave Berlin, but she cannot leave the Fuhrer. We sympathize with these people, and they only show how insane the Third Reich was. People commit suicide out of devotion to the Fuhrer.

Corinna Harfouch plays a chilling Magda Goebbels; the scene where she pleads with Hitler not to kill himself was outstanding. The star of this movie though, is Bruno Ganz. His performance as Hitler feels so authentic it is frightening. If I ever had to recommend a movie just to see one performance, this would be one of them. Hitler has been played by great actors like Anthony Hopkins and Alec Guinness, but Ganz has received the most praise. I will seek out more of Ganz's movies based on this performance.

At the end of the film, an excerpt from an interview with the real Traudl Junge is shown. She says that at the time of the Nuremberg trials she was shocked by what had happened in the Concentration Camps but did not consider herself responsible. Now she admits that she had no excuse. I would imagine this is how many Germans from her generation feel. I highly recommend Der Untergang to anyone who is interested in The Third Reich or anyone who appreciates good film making.
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Important for our understanding of How It All Could Happen
Monte-Cristo27 February 2005
This is an important film and absolutely a must for anyone who has ever pondered how WWII, the Holocaust and all that was at all possible.

Der Untergang has sometimes been criticized for making Hitler and the Nazis look sympathetic and human. I saw it like this: the most horrifying thing about Hitler and Nazis is that they WERE humans, not some caricature monsters of hell. The movie displays this very well, without sympathizing or underlining the evil of these human beings.

If you're a human being equipped with normal feelings, you ARE right in feeling slightly compassionate towards a crying Hitler. But at the same time, if you're a normal person, your compassion vanishes when you remember why he's crying. He's not regretting his inhuman deeds. He's not feeling remorse for the suffering of other people. He's crying because his horrible plans have failed, because he thinks the German people have failed him.

I also think Der Untergang points out an important thing about the Nazi ideology. It was and is evil because it is based on intense hate and the conscious rejection of compassion. People blinded by this kind of ideology are also blinded by hatred, and as we know this phenomenon is unfortunately alive and well in today's world, in the East and the West as well. Movies like Der Untergang give us an important lesson in understanding this dangerous way of thought and the utter madness and vanity of war. Go see this if you can.
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Gripping, moving and horrifying – again a war movie that just makes you wonder what the point of it all is
bob the moo19 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In 1945 the second world war is coming to an end The German armies that once spread out all over Europe have been decimated and pushed back to the very heart of the German command in Berlin. Deep in his bunker, Hitler continues to rule with his group of generals, families and Traudl, his secretary. Awaiting armies that no longer exist and making plans that his generals are too scared to tell him are impossible, Hitler refuses to surrender as the streets and citizens of Berlin suffer between the remaining defending forces and the advancing Russian army. Gradually, as it becomes obvious that all is lost, the dream collapses and all that is left is death.

A few months ago, a fellow user on this site asked me if I thought if Der Untergang was going to get nominated for an Oscar or not; I must admit that at the time I had not heard of it, but decided to see it if I got the chance. Of course it took me a few weeks to be in the mood for a long war movie that I knew was not going to have a good ending for anyone. When I went to see this film, the woman selling me my tickets asked if I knew it was a German film, I asked why it mattered and she said that they had had quite a few people leave the screening complaining about the fact it wasn't in English; doubtless these people then went into the next available screening of Be Cool (or whatever) and turned off their hearts and minds and just talked their way through the movie. Anyway, enough of my multiplex complaining, in fairness I did join a surprisingly full screening of this film and immediately got into it. The focus of the story was the bunker and it is compelling in its portrayal, with the cold emotion, the cruel sentiments and the utter pointlessness of the whole thing.

The characters are not that well developed; they were never really people to me but they did enough to fit their roles within this story. That said, the whole story is compelling and it didn't matter that I didn't care for the characters as people because they were gripping to watch nonetheless. The film works well to paint the inanity of the whole thing but also cut in moments that are so cold that they almost made me shiver – for example, when Hitler is told of the loss of all the young officers, he simply replies "that is what the young are for". The film does not forget the people above ground and the scenes of destruction of Berlin are impacting – those who say that the civilians deserved it should see this and try to understand what they would have done in the situation; I am part of a country that went to war with Iraq, by that logic I deserve to have that country retaliate against me, even though I opposed the manner in which we did it.

The acting is classy even though the characters are quite thin at times. Ganz is a great Hitler and gets it spot on throughout the film; however he does well not to dominate the film – his death (no spoiler there) doesn't stop the film because he was not what the film was all about. Lara is good although a bit too wide-eyed to convince; her real confessions at the end of the film are a bit too forgiving of her as a person but it does serve as a fair ending to the film. Harfouch and Matthes are cold and effective as the Goebbels' while the rest of the support cast all fit their roles well, with a good mix of opinions and approaches across the generals facing Hitler.

Overall this is a good film although it is not an easy one to watch. The bunker scenes are cold and compelling even if the characters are broad historical reference points rather than people, meanwhile the attacks on Berlin are brutal and difficult to just watch without being moved. The manner in which the film ends is just as you'd expect, with nothing achieved but destruction by all of German's years before and during the war. The end credits remind us that 50 million people died during the war, including 6 million Jews and ethnic minorities systematically murdered – having seen the men who organised all this taking their own lives the main thing I felt was just how pointless and wasteful the whole thing had been and I left the film having "enjoyed" the quality film but being utterly depressed by the world in which we live.
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Robert J. Maxwell28 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I tuned in late to this film, not expected very much, because we have all I suppose seen so many documentaries of Hitler's last days in the bunker, and a reconstruction with Alec Guiness thrown in for good measure. Many of these presentations depend on interviews with Trudl Junge, Hitler's secretary at the time. Her descriptions of the goings on during the final days are cool, precise, and dispassionate. First Hitler said this, then Eva Braun said that, and then they went up into the garden. A human surveillance camera who seems to have no personal mechanism for judgments.

She was, however, quite human after all. The last shot of the film is from an interview with her before her death in 2002. She explains to us that, young as she was, she had always put aside any feeling of guilt for her involvement in the Third Reich, negligible as it was. But then, one day, she passed a monument to Sophie Scholl who sacrificed herself in the course of resisting Naziism, and Frau Junge tells the camera -- and the rest of the world -- that she realized at that moment that youth and naiveté could no longer serve as her excuse.

I missed the first half hour or so, but I stayed for the rest. This is an extremely powerful movie. The events in the bunker are keenly observed. There is virtually nothing in the way of sentiment or dramatic displays. If the director, Hirschbiegel, wants two officers to commit suicide he may have them walk into a room and close the door behind them, then allow us to hear two shots a bit later.

No one talks about despair. Instead, the officers and some of the ladies sit around a table in one of the bunker's rooms and get drunk as skunks.

This is a tragic ending to an insane war, and it is all enacted by human beings, not demons. Goebbels and his wife have 5 beautiful young children, a boy and four girls. They deliberately give them knockout drops, then Frau Goebbels puts a capsule of fast-acting poison in each of their mouths, one after another, and crunches the capsule by pressing each child's teeth together. Then, wordlessly, Goebbels and his wife walk up into the open where, still wordlessly, he shoots her and then himself -- off camera. The soldiers who have been waiting impatiently for this ritual to end, then scurry forward with cans of gasoline to dispose of the bodies.

The episode is impossible to watch without being moved. What have Goebbels and his wife died for? What did their children, who knew nothing of war or racism, die for? And, implicitly, the film asks, what did some 50 million people die for between 1939 and 1945? I am grateful to the director and the actors for keeping things so matter of fact. Preparations for a predictable death are pretty gruesome even with the most tasteful intentions, and too often executions and suicides seem to have the filmmakers' attention lavished on them for not much reason other than to pander to a morbid interest in watching someone else die, a kind of arousal jag.

How easy it would have been for a trashy sensibility to give us the death of Hitler's German shepherd, Blondi, in all its horror. A DOG yet! Those of us who might have cheered at Hitler's death would now have a chance to weep over Blondi's. Instead, except for a few instructive inserts, Blondi's poisoning is only glimpsed in a clumsy shot through an open doorway.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this production. They've given us a well-executed film, made for adults. They come along so rarely.
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The Truth Is Chilling
JulianMHall31 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I had the DVD of this film for my birthday, and quite by chance also bought The Name Of The Rose (also produced by Bernd Eichinger) so I had the experience of watching two movies by this superb producer in two days, filmed 20 years apart.

To save anyone who doesn't want to read further: I have over 200 DVDs in my collection and have no hesitation in placing this as #1.

Now for the review: I'm not sure it is possible to write a 'spoiler' for historic events (not counting the people who came out of Titanic crying because 'the ship sank'<??>). We know Hitler died, we know the Allies won WWII.

I came to this movie having read the book "The Last Days Of Hitler" by Hugh Trevor-Roper, who was the officer British Intelligence charged with finding out the truth, in September 1945. Obviously I was curious to see how Downfall compared.

The main difference is in focus. While the book looks from the top (leadership) down, the film looks from the bottom (Traudl Junge - a secretary) up. The difference in perception is fascinating.

Hitler: Our first view of him is somehow of a kindly man who stops dictating, looks at Traudl and says "Let's try again" when she fails to keep up with him. The duality of this, his private character is incredible and makes one think bipolar or schizophrenia as it seems impossible to believe that the raging monster who says that the German people do not deserve to survive is the same one who orders Junge and Christian to leave the bunker. If in his eyes the German people do not deserve life, why does he show concern for them? Is it because among his inner circle they are one of the vanishing number who have never betrayed him?

Eva Braun: Blind loyalty is the only description I can find for her. Her devotion to Hitler is total, even when pleading for the life of Fegelein she bows unquestioningly to his decision.

Traudl Junge: I can't say more than the lady herself, who in the DVD starts and ends the film with her judgment on herself. Her very simple stance (paraphrased) was "Ignorance is no excuse. Youth is no excuse. I could have asked. I didn't want to know."

Josef Goebbels: Frightening. A true sociopath in every sense of the word. Hitler may have had the 'excuse' of mental illness towards the end, but Goebbels' actions were those of a rational thinking man who just did not see anything wrong in his actions. The ranting of a clearly unhinged mind is one thing, but save us all from the man who calmly considers his actions and rationalises such atrocities as those explained away by Goebbels.

However, again like Hitler, his portrayal showed a stark duality to his character. One moment singing 'Happy Birthday' to Hitler with his children, with a warm smile and sparkling eyes; the next telling Traudl Junge very calmly that the German people quite rightly deserved the fate that was being visited on them.

Magda Goebbels: As with other reviewers here, I found her almost the most chilling, second only to her husband. How any mother could deliberately and calmly bring about the deaths of her own children is something a rational mind cannot comprehend.

Every single performance in the movie was captivating. I was glued to the screen from beginning to end. Bruno Ganz et al were perfect in their roles and brought every person back to life; as noted above sometimes to chilling effect. Talking to a friend on the phone about the film he thought I meant that the characters were stereotypical 'nasty Germans', but this is *not* the case.

I've mentioned the duality of the main characters, but there were others, Prof. Dr. Ernst-Günter Schenck, Prof. Dr. Werner Haase, SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein to name but a few who showed that not all Germans were rabid Nazis, and that those who were, were very much in the minority. The Army in particular just wanted to get the war over with the minimum of casualties; a wish shared I think by every military commander throughout history.

The look of the film was authentic and very atmospheric; whether in the cramped bunker (apparently built more as an authentic replica than a film-set) where the shots were mostly taken hand held as there was no space for a mounted camera; to the outdoor shots filmed in St Petersburg. It is rivaled in this respect only by Enemy At The Gates for capturing the full horror and idiocy of war.

For true historians of the war - a must see.

For all modern history students - a must see.

For all who have never lived through war (I myself am 36 so I have not)

Lest We Forget.

A Must See.
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