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The rise of national socialism in Germany should not be regarded as a conspiracy of madmen. Millions of "good" people found themselves in a society spiralling into terrible chaos. A film about then, which illuminates the terrors of now.



(stage play), (screenplay)
2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gemma Jones ...
Anastasia Hille ...
Ruth Gemmell ...
Ralph Riach ...
David de Keyser ...


John Halder is a 'good' and decent individual with family problems: a neurotic wife, two demanding children and a mother suffering from senile dementia. A literary professor, Halder explores his personal circumstances in a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia. When the book is unexpectedly enlisted by powerful political figures in support of government propaganda, Halder finds his career rising in an optimistic current of nationalism and prosperity. Seemingly inconsequential decisions lead to choices, which lead to more choices... with eventually devastating effect. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Anything that makes people happy can't be bad, can it?


Drama | Romance | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

17 April 2009 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

El principio del mal  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$9,508 (USA) (2 January 2009)


$23,091 (USA) (9 January 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The music played at the end by the Jewish prisoners is Gustav Mahler's first symphony, third movement. This movement uses as one of its themes a parody of the popular children song "Frère Jacques", and the whole symphony borrows heavily from one of Mahler's song cycles, Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen. The last song, "Die zwei blauen Augen" (The two blue eyes) can be heard sometimes during the movie, as in the end of the movie shoot and as part of the symphony's movement being played. See more »


In the scene, when Halder takes a walk with his ex-wife in the cemetery, which is supposed to be in Berlin, Germany, Hungarian names are clearly visible on the gravestones. See more »


The Jews' Song - Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, 4th movement
Written by Gustav Mahler
See more »

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User Reviews

12 February 2015 | by (Bracebridge Ont) – See all my reviews

Perhaps a little "artsy-dartsy", yes. But this is still a very compelling film that shows the many shades of grey that existed between the black and the white of most war movies. It's the story of a typical German --- a young professor --- who gets swept up in events as he goes along to get along. He sees Nazism as a temporary aberration and even believes he can have a positive influence on it but gets swept up in the movement without really believing in it. Life could be good in Germany before the war if you were not Jewish and were a Nazi or at least appeared to be one. Thus are Professor John Holden and his Jewish friend and fellow world war veteran Maurice caught in the vortex. There are a few extraneous lines in the plot: Holden's senile mother, his failed marriage and the reason for it. They don't seem to serve any purpose other than to add some flesh to a fairly skinny plot. But nevertheless it is both a powerful, well performed drama and a very different glimpse into the everyday life of Nazi Germany before the war.

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