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The film was shot as if it had been made in 1945. Only studio back lots, sets and local Los Angeles locations were used. No radio microphones were used, the film was lit with only incandescent lights and period lenses were used on the cameras. The actors were directed to perform in a presentational, stage style. The only allowance was the inclusion of nudity, violence and cursing which would have been forbidden by the Production Code.
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So that the film could be in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, which modern theaters are not equipped to handle, the prints are in 1.85:1, with black bars on the sides.
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Steven Soderbergh, wishing to shoot this film the old Hollywood way, banned the use of sophisticated zoom lenses used by today's cinematographers, returning to the fixed focal-length lenses used in the past. Furthermore, only incandescent lights were used which provided harsh, unnatural lighting. There were also no wireless body microphones, which would allow the faintest whispers to be heard, on set. Sound was recorded the old-fashioned way, with a hand-operated boom mike held above the actors head, which consequently forced the actors to speak in loud, crisp English.
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Cate Blanchett studied Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid Bergman in order to play a German character. Ingrid Bergman, however, was Swedish.
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The movie poster is an homage to a poster for the classic Warner Bros. film Casablanca (1942), as is the closing scene at the airport.
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Steven Soderbergh initially considered shooting on a black & white film stock, but ended up using a color stock because it was required for the bluescreen effects of the driving scenes. (Black & white stocks were also slower and grainier than he would have liked.) The film was subsequently desaturated in the digital intermediate, and released on a black & white print stock. George Clooney had gone down the same path the previous year, with his film Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005).
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David Holmes composed a complete score which was rejected.
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Kate Winslet was previously linked to the female lead.
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Once or twice in the film adverts for Persil washing powder are seen, before Lena gets her "Persilschein".
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Prologue: "Berlin July 1945. Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin are scheduled to meet outside the city, in Potsdam, to draw the post-war map. Only Japan continues to fight..."
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When Geismar checks Lena's file in the Records archive at Military Government headquarters, he discovers only a note in the folder saying the file has been "sent to Overcast." Operation Overcast was the U.S. Army's 1945 operation to bring German rocket scientists (such as Wernher von Braun) and their families to America following the end of the war. (It was later renamed Operation Paperclip.)
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Dora-Mittelbau (also known as Mittelbau-Dora, Dora-Nordhausen, or Nordhausen) was a real Nazi concentration camp in central Germany, originally a subcamp of the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp but later an independent operation. Slave laborers at Dora-Mittlebau were first forced to dig large underground tunnels as factories called Mittelwerk (Central Works) and storage sites and then to work in those factories manufacturing V-2 rockets. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Holocaust Encyclopedia says, "Until the spring of 1944, prisoners were kept mostly underground, deprived of daylight and fresh air, and enclosed in unstable tunnels. The mortality rate was higher than at most other concentration camps. Prisoners too weak or ill to work were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau or Mauthausen to be killed." After the war, some of the Nazis who perpetrated atrocities at Dora were tried for war crimes, but many others were brought to the United States under the auspices of the US government to work on American rocket projects. The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorial Foundation website says, "several dozen engineers and managers ... entered service for the Americans in 1945. They were headed by Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, who initially carried on with the design of rocket weapons in the U.S. and later, in the 1960s, directed the American lunar expedition programme. Other Mittelwerk engineers worked for the Soviet rocket programme from 1945 onward. Like the majority of the rocket engineers, many of the construction experts who had been involved with the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp were able to continue their careers without interruption after the war. Only very few of them were held accountable for the forced labour and the crimes committed against the inmates." The article "Wernher von Braun and the Nazis" by Michael J. Neufeld says that when von Braun was obliged in 1969 to testify for a West German court, von Braun admitted that he was aware that the underground workers he oversaw were slave laborers and that he had seen "terrible conditions" there.
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