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In 1942, Friedrich Weimer's boxing skills get him an appointment to a National Political Academy (NaPolA) - high schools that produce Nazi elite. Over his father's objections, Friedrich enrolls, seeing this as his ticket out of factory life to university and a good salary. During his year in seventh column (fifth form), this innocence is altered as Friedrich encounters hazing, cruelty, death, and the Nazi code. His friendship with Albrecht, the ascetic son of the area's governor, is central to this education; a night in the forest hunting for escaped Russian POWs brings things to a head. Written by
I just watched Napola at the Montreal World Film Festival and I was pleasantly surprised. This choice of a random movie turned out to be a real cinematographic gem.
Set during World War II, this movie is about the dilemma and choices of some German teenagers who attend a napola - a special institution for gifted boys to turn them into the Nazi elite. Their days consist of military training and indoctrination; they are forced to lose all pity and become ruthless servants of the Fuhrer.
The story follows the entrance of Friedrich into a napola, the changes that he undergoes and the choices that he makes. Admitted because of his boxing skills, he seizes it as an opportunity to escape his poor working class situation. His best friend at the napola is the Governor's son - sensitive, caring, humane and opposed to Nazi dogma, he is obviously in the wrong place but has no choice but to fulfill his dad's wishes. As their friendship develops, Friedrich struggles between the ideology that the napola is forcing upon him and his friend's pacific beliefs.
This powerful film with excellent acting culminates on the boxing ring as Friedrich fights against the champion from another napola. The scene of the morning practice on the frozen lake left me breathless, while the ending of the grenade throwing session shook me with its passion, despair, and horror.
Another reason why I liked this movie so much is that it is made by Germans; indeed one would expect Hollywood to come up with such a story and that the outcome would be a highly emotional melodrama. I could feel the director disagreeing strongly with the Nazis, but rather than feeling shameful for what his countrymen did 60 years ago, he denounced it. Indeed, Friedrich's ultimate choice should be the choice of the new Germany.
My rating: 9/10
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