A film about an unfinished film which portrays the people behind and before the camera in the Warsaw Ghetto, exposing the extent of the cinematic manipulation forever changing the way we look at historic images.
Traudl Junge was Adolf Hitler's private secretary, from Autumn 1942 until the collapse of the Nazi regime. She worked for him at the Wolfsschanze in Obersalzberg, on his private train and, finally, in his bunker in the besieged capital. It was Traudl Junge to whom Hitler dictated his final testament. In her first ever on-camera interview, 81-year-old Junge talks about her unique life. In the spring of 2001, Andre Heller succeeded in convincing Traudl Junge how valuable it is to record her unique memories. Fifty-six years after the end of the Second World War, an important eyewitness reveals her experiences to us. What she saw and heard turned her into an furious opponent of National Socialism; an opponent, moreover, who is still painfully aware and seems incapable of forgiving the young girl she once was--for her naivete, ignorance, and her liking for Hitler.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
The official sites of this film claim that these interviews are Traudl Junge's first public appearance, that she "kept quiet for nearly 60 years". See more »
But one day I walked past the memorial plaque for Sophie Scholl on Franz-Joseph-Straße and there I realised that she was my age group and that she was executed the year I came to Hitler. That moment I felt that being young actually isn't an excuse and that maybe one could have learnt about things.
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Traudl Junge, one of Hitler's personal secretaries, finally decides to come out and tell the story of working for Hitler during one of the most catastrophic and studied times in German history. You sort of have to get past the fact that the movie is literally nothing more than a camera pointed at her while she tells these stories, it's certainly not what I had expected when I rented the film, but with subject matter like this it really doesn't matter. In a sense, if they had dramatized her story with photos, archive footage or, god forbid, reenactments, I think it would really have diluted the potency and immediacy of what she had to say.
This is a woman who, at the time, was in her late teens and, like countless other people, she was intoxicated with the unnerving charm and determination and grand view for the future of the world. Yes, it's all told simply through the dialogue of this elderly woman talking to an interviewer, but this is a woman who met with Hitler face to face during his most powerful time, who watched him evolve from the dangerously charismatic leader with a master plan for the human race and into the darkly depressed visionary, fallen from power and overcome with defeat, faced with the crashing of his enormous ideals. She even tells the story literally of the last minutes of Hitler's life, during which he actually bid her farewell just before ending his own life.
One of the things that really struck me was the amazing detail of Junge's memory. Here she is in her 80s, and she remembers word-for-word conversations that happened decades earlier, as well as remarkable details of situations and events. The looks on people's faces, who was where and at what time, as well as what was happening at those times, smells, emotions, sounds, etc. These are all of the things that good novelists use to convey a compelling sense of atmosphere which is, I think, one of the most important things to be created for a novel to be effective. I don't think at all that Junge's memory should be called into question, even though she remembers such striking details of things that happened so many years ago (and I don't think that her age should be a factor in deciding how accurate her memory is, either).
This is a time in this woman's life that she has surely been going over and over in her head for decades, wondering how she could have been so fooled into thinking that she was working for a powerful, benevolent leader, and how she could not have seen what was really going on. She learns late in her life about a woman about her own who had been executed for opposing Hitler the same year that she herself came to work for him. It seems to me that a period in someone's life that has such a resonating effect of the rest of it is something that is remembered even more vividly than anything that happens later.
The stories about Hitler himself are probably the most compelling element of the entire film. Junge tells stories about him that I would never have imagined, since like many people (to which this film is mainly aimed, I think) know little about Hitler beyond the public speeches that he made about his grand vision, where he displayed his amazing speaking abilities and his shockingly effective ability to make his vision, while always destructive to the people that he viewed as inferior, sound appealing to so many people. Obviously, a person would have to have some earth-shaking motivational speaking abilities to make people on a large scale accept and support something so murderous and destructive to humanity in general.
Some of the things about Hitler that I was most surprised by were things like his pet dog, Blondie, and his affection for her puppies, the way he is described as soft-spoken and polite when speaking to the young women working for him as his secretaries, the total transformation in appearance that he evidently underwent whenever he stepped before the cameras and microphones in public, the fact that he didn't ever want flowers kept in his office because he `hated dead things,' etc. Junge expresses her own shock at that last point, which surely mirrors that of anyone else watching the film. Can you imagine someone like Hitler, who engineered millions of human deaths, uncomfortable with flowers in his office because he hated dead things? It boggles the mind, and is also reflected by other revelations in the film such as his total detachment from everything that was going on in Germany as a result of his leadership. He even traveled in a train with the blinds drawn and was taxied through the streets to his destinations by drivers who would take the routes with the least amount of war damage so that he wouldn't be made uncomfortable.
This is certainly not a traditional documentary, but the documentary genre is, I think, one of the most flexible genres in film. The subject matter is literally endless, and as this movie shows, even the simplest forms of the documentary can be enormously effective and moving. I think that the main purpose of a documentary is to provide information, not entertainment, and as long as it can do that I don't think that it really matters how intricate or complexly made the film itself is. Blind Spot provides plenty of information, and while the presentation is not exactly thrilling, it reminded me throughout of reading a book. One of the main reasons that I love to read (and, I think, also one of the reasons that people are so often disappointed with film adaptations of novels) is because it is always an individual experience. You create in your head the world that is described in the book, and film adaptations are someone else's vision of that world, which is pretty much invariably not the same as your own. This is why movies that are as closely faithful to the original material are so often the most critically and popularly successful ones. In Blind Spot, Junge tells her story in her own words without any kind of cinematic enhancement of them, allowing the viewer to create what it must have been like in his or her own head which, I think, makes the world and the events that she describes that much more vivid and immediate.
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