Dresden (2006 TV Movie)
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What makes this film interesting is that you'll see the bombing of Dresden from the German point of view. As it is a television film "Dresden" was made for the big audience and not for intellectuals. How would the Germans describe the bombing of Dresden? How would they portray the allies? The film tries to be objective - it shows the gruesome details of the destruction of Dresden and shows as well the nazi terror dominant in Hitler's last days. It has a cast of British and German actors and doesn't try to demonize either side. It's much more concerned with the love story lived by the British pilot with the German nurse than with historical details and it's an appeal for peace and understanding. The plot is as full of holes as a swiss cheese, sometimes bordering on the incredible. But if you employ some suspension of disbelief "Dresden" will move you. There's good acting, good cinematography and the sweet Felicitas Woll.
I wasn't expecting too much, but was hooked from the first minute. I was really pleased to see a good healthy mixture of well-known actors, however I did get the feeling that sometimes the concept and trauma of the whole idea was too overwhelming for even them to actually carry it off believably. I got the feeling that it was mentally exhausting for all involved.
That's the only negative point, but I understand that this subject is such a sensitive one, one that reflected everybody's personal feelings. If no-one feels sensitive about an issue such as this, then we are all in trouble in the future.
I felt that John Light definitely did it for me with his (apparent) stoicism, when all the time the shock and horror of what is actually happening , almost in a surreal way, unfolds beyond his (characters') eyes and becomes more and more embedded in the soul. The idea of being a victim when the "good guys" are actually bombing the hell out of the place you're stuck in, puts a very different subjective aspect on the story. The poignancy reflected in the story on both sides had me very moved for a long time. Of course there are many aspects and issues that were maybe left with the surface barely scratched, but many issues were definitely broached, and that's what counts. How do you condense a culmination of 6 years of war into one "short" TV-event? Answer, it's nigh-on impossible, but the effort was made very bravely, well-done.
A great deal of thought-provoking moments and a no-win situation were another top point, where I feel these sorts of films, be it romance, drama, documentary or otherwise should never cease. We unfortunately need the horrific visions, (and the brain can conjure up plenty of horrific scenes without actually having to have everything laid out on a plate, the essence is important, the rest can and often has to be left to the imagination, one of our most powerful resources) to remind ourselves of how terrible things can become, because human beings are very forgetful of just what has happened in the past and never should happen again.
I was very glad to have watched this drama and will definitely be recommending it further.
"Dresden" deals with two major themes: one dealing with the war itself, showing the German civilians living day to day in fear of severe retaliation on behalf of the British RAF. It also shows how the British pilots, who risk their lives to bomb the enemy, and how ruthless the Nazi's were.
The other theme is a fragment of the previous theme, showing a love-story between a stranded British pilot and a German civilian nurse working in a local hospital during the war.
Hence of course why this film is called "Dresden"; not because of the city but because of anyone and anything taking place in the city of Dresden.
Also worth to mention is that "Dresden" is unlike other Hollywood movies dealing World War 2. It's not meant to only entertain the viewer but to educate as well. This is partially done by some intense dramatic moments and painful, shocking detailed images.
About the rest of the movie; I was surprised by the good acting performances done by a relative unknown cast. At least I don't know any of them. It also was quite obvious that a large budget was available, looking at the good quality of production when keeping in mind that "Dresden" is 'only' a TV-movie.
Conclusion: if you want to learn something more about World War 2 while 'witnessing' it from another point of view and at the same time enjoying an intriguing story about two 'enemies' falling in love, then "Dresden" is something for you.
If you want American patriotism, a single sided view on World War 2 and lots of entertainment, then I'm sure that there are plenty of Hollywood-films out there.
My score, keeping in mind it's 'only' a TV-film: 8 out of 10.
But the film also does not just consist of the usual love story between two people who are actually not allowed to love each other but rather tries to show through that love both sides of the attack - the German and the British side. And that fact makes the film kinda special because it really works.
The excellent cast with Felicitas Woll, John Light and Benjamin Sadler as main figures involve the viewer into a very personal drama. As the screenplay avoids black-and-white-painting, multi-layered characters invite the viewer to a differentiating point of view.
Realistic fire-scenes, carefully computer-animated flying-sequences and the participation of both British and German historians in pre-production contribute to a gripping movie about a sensitive point in German history.
It might have worked in "Dresden" as well, had not been the focus so strictly on the English pilot and the Mauth family (plus a few scenes with Annas co-worker and her Jewish partner). From what I have read and seen on TV and listened to I have learned that there are so many interesting and heartbreaking actual stories. I think the makers of the movie should have worked more of them in for it was obvious in the movie that the parts that were the most shocking were the ones that were based on real events - just sad, that they were so few of them.
Also, since the movie was so very focused on a love story that obviously not many people cared about, the structure of this mini-series was somehow awkward. Why make a two-parter about the bombing of Dresden if the bombers don't actually leave the ground until the last scene of part one and only reach the city halfway into part two? Had this been cut down by an hour and shown as one 2-hour TV-movie I believe it might have had a greater impact.
Still I give this movie 6 stars, because the final 45 minutes actually do work. Of course, the focus is mainly an Anna and the two men running around in the city with her but there are many touching and horrifying scenes in which we as viewers get a little insight into how terrible and traumatizing it must have been to be at this place in this night. Sure, the actual events were still much worse and to tell survivors after viewing this one understands what it was like in Dresden is insulting, but it is mostly in small scenes like the one where a group of people asks a young soldier to shoot them because nobody will survive this anyhow, that I felt a big lump in my throat and got a better understanding of the horror than in the (arguably well done for a TV production) scenes of the inferno.
Tha final scene in which the rebuilt Frauenkirche is re-inaugurated worked for me. I think I understood a lot better now, after watching this movie, how important the building was for the people of Dresden, and why for many of the survivors it was a symbol of their wounds slowly healing and coming to terms with these traumatizing events.
But as a whole, this movie is not about "Dresden", thus it should not have this title. It is just about a bunch of uninteresting poorly written, cliché-based cardboard characters that are, though being mostly played by very competent actors, so completely unappealing, that they ruin the movie.
The first thing I noticed while watching this much anticipated "TV event" was, that all the British spoke German. I wondered why that British pilot in Dresden tried to avoid talking to Germans, because when he spoke, it was always in perfect German without any accent (I might add, that in the "Making-of" features which promoted the film beforehand, it was pointed out that only British actors were cast for the British parts, for greater authenticity). Have you people never heard of the concept of "subtitling"?
The story of this film comes straight out of our favorite handbook "How to write a screenplay for beginners", so everything is trite, obvious and corny, from the way our heroine meets her hero just as she is about to get engaged, to the point where she is miraculously re-united with her dying father so he can whisper "I'm sorry" before drawing his last breath... And as you might expect, the directing is as trite and unimaginative as is the story.
When it comes to the bombing, there is a lot of explosions and fire, which is not the least impressive, as we have seen better explosions and bigger fires in hundreds of Hollywood films. Of course they throw in some gore (but not too much, as this is supposed to be prime time material), so no one can blame them of not having shown the "real" horror of war.
Some thing I liked was the cast and the acting, especially that of some of the supporting actors, for example Wolfgang Stumph as a priest and Katharina Meinecke as Annas mother. I really liked Susanne Bormann as the heroine's sister. I'd rather have followed her through the film instead of Felicitas Woll's Anna, that annoying prig who never hesitates to dump her fiancé (without telling him, of course) in favour of a handsome Englishman she barely knows. Oh, how I hate this kind of women.
It is poorly written, the screenplay tries to fulfill genre-rules with standard suspense/love- story elements but there is no depth or originality at all. It's way below average. The next thing: It is also poorly directed. It has this uninteresting TV-directing-Style with lots of close-ups and wanna-be-great-action by fast editing where actually no action or suspense is. The actors are not bad but there is no performance that is touching in any way.
I don't know... they obviously try to do a typical TV-movie and not a film for the cinema, where its alway good to have some edges and a clear visual style. But why do they try to fulfill typical commercial Hollywood-rules? it really feels like the screenwriter did a weekend- class with some American scriptwriting-guru and then delivered this mess. Is there no producer who is responsible for the project who has an interest in dramaturgy/ visual style or plain in simple this magical cinematic moments that make some TV-Movies great ?!? Do they think that an TV-audience is stupid and doesn't need to get a high quality- movie experience? The Downfall was a very good example for a good TV-movie but there was probably some executive or producer who knew what he was doing.
Don't waste you time with this one, rent "downfall" instead...
It is especially the latter point that so irritates. Was the bombing of Dresden a war crime? The makers of this movie believe so. But in the typically emasculated way that Germans have come to approach World War II, they can't bring themselves to say so without braying about "peace" and "no more wars--anywhere" like they're Mother Teresa. And, also typical of German obsequiousness towards the British in particular, there is an unwieldy effort to grovel before "Britishness", while loading all the "guilt" for Dresden on to one person, Arthur Harris.
Did I say one person? Well, not quite. At the beginning of the movie, there is an exclamation from the leading character, Anna, with whom we are all supposed to sympathize. "Damned Americans!", she screams, while watching as far off bombs fall. And a few minutes later, a radio voice intones warnings about the "American Terror Bombing" being inflicted upon Germans.
Note the word, "terror". Got that? It's really the Americans behind the inhumane targeting of German civilians. No matter that the American strategy for almost all the war in Europe was the "precision" bombing of industrial and war manufacturing sites. No matter that it was the British who enthusiastically adopted "area" bombing of civilian targets in Germany--before the Germans had themselves even targeted English ones. No matter that the Americans bombed during the day, suffering more casualties in the process than the British, in order to hit precision targets, while the British bombed civilians under the cover of night. No matter that the Americans, essentially, were brought into the RAF's true terror bombing campaign kicking and screaming against it. No matter that most American officials, from FDR to Gen. Dolittle, opposed targeting civilians, while Churchill and his generals couldn't wait to do so.
No, in DRESDEN, both the Germans and British, except for "Bomber" Harris, are innocent of a doctrine, it is intimated, created by the evil Americans. And only the might and power of a love story between a German nurse and a downed British bomber pilot can adequately explain the "truth" of the atrocity. Right.
Oh, by the way, for the younger and likely less well read readers of IMDb, the first and still so far only major literary effort to give a thoughtful voice to Dresden's bombing was the pacifist novel penned by Kurt Vonnegut--an American POW in Dresden at the time of the bombing. I guess Germany's ZDF couldn't find a pretty nurse for Billy Pilgrim.
Apart from the fact that this caricature of a movie doesn't even attempt to take the bombing of Dresden seriously, it tries to make up for its historical inaccuracy with a highly improbable "love story". When I say "improbable love story" I mean something that would not happen in a million years.
Most of the movie revolves around 2 characters, Anna and Robert. Anna is a German nurse who in the first few scenes of the movie expresses her disgust towards Americans and their "campain of terror". Laughable, considering that it was in fact the British who started bombing civilian areas in WW2. Anyway... Rober on the other hand is a British pilot who happens to get shot down over Dresden and after a rough landing decides to nonchalantly hide inside a German hospital where Anna works.
Long, tedious and nauseating story cut short, Anna falls in "love" with him and decides to take her panties off and let him have some fun while her intelligent and hard working fiancé is probably out there somewhere healing injured German soldiers. Later on she decides to dump her fiancé altogether and run off with this charming(not) Brit and... the rest is not even worth mentioning. Stories like that belong on the corner of streets "Possibility 0%" and "downright creepy".
Apart from the cheesy romance, if you can even call it that, the movie completely fails to capture the true horror of the 1945 Dresden bombing. The scenes are rushed, the special effects are completely and utterly crap and acting so wooden, it belongs with movies like Wiseau's 'The Room' and Ed Wood's 'Plan 9: From Outer Space'.
This movie is a complete insult to the survivors of the Dresden Bombings and if you're looking for a decent war movie... then go watch "Das Boot" or "Downfall" but please, stay away from this one.
We can see a beautiful (but unbelievable) love story between a British officer of the RAF and a pretty German nurse (all in a few days). No real problem about this, but for my was a disappoint because I waited for something different, for more history and less story.
Finally, bombing of the city happens, of course, but it results no impressive. It was one of the most terrible bombings made in history, but in my opinion this is not reflected in the movie, and this is the main cause of its fail.
Briefing, not a bad movie, but if you want to see a war movie or a disaster movie, try another.
The biggest character is portrayed by Felicitas Woll. I personally see her as a charismatic actress that is really beautiful (which saved the film a bit) but has no range. But you can't really blame her either for the generic way the character was written. Male main characters are played by John Light, Benjamin Sadler and Heiner Lauterbach and these last two are the perfect example of actors that shine through recognition value instead of range. I cannot say anything about Light as I have not seen him in other works. Sadly, Jürgen Heinrich, who I liked, has not a lot of screen time at all. Marie Bäumer also fits the description I gave earlier. Charismatic. recognition value. But not particularly talented.
The story is the film's biggest problem. In the end, nothing stays memorable about this film at all, not from a historic perspective and certainly not about the characters. There are several cringeworthy scenes though when it comes to drama like Lauterbach's character's farewell (suddenly a good guy out of nowhere???) or Sadler's shooting scene at the very end almost that could have been so much better (again, Sadler is not to blame, but the blatancy of the filmmakers in their unsuccessful attempt to create something relevant). The worst part of the film is probably the romance though. Again, it is not the actors' fault, but it already starts in the way Woll's and Light's characters meet when he saves a boy from committing suicide after Sadler's character was very cold towards the grieving boy before. These are the scenes where the film is nothing more than a schmaltzy romantic drama and even if the filmmakers' intention to turn this into something more is visibly throughout the entire film, it is really almost never successful. Another painful moment was the ending when they went for a semi-happy ending (the birth, but the death) and tried to convince the audience that a non-gooey ending is something that prevents the film from being forgettable romantic schmaltz. It does not. I don't recommend the watch as it offers very little of quality and instead drags on so many occasions because of characters that were written in an uninspired fashion and without shades.
At the end of the war the allies did exactly what they reproached to their enemies, by bombing Dresden then Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This movie shows what it was to live with that constant threat over one's head and the consequences of the massive bombing of the town. Of course there are goofs, of course there are situations which are mostly improbable or impossible to happen in such situations. But it's not the point and the important thing in such a movie.
The important thing is to make conscious young generations who were not even born during WWII of the horrors of war, of hate, of excess nationalism and sense of superiority which all leads to such situation and their terrible aftermath.
In 1962 I was 21 and I spent 3 months in Reutlingen, a town near Stuttgart. The family who was my host were former residents of Dresden. They had lost everything. In the rumbles of the house totally destroyed Mrs. Kaiser had recovered a beautiful blue crystal vase. Under the tremendous heat of the bombs, the vase had become oval from its original cylinder shape. I then really understood what it must have been.
There's nothing more to say. We have all of us Allies and especially, England, the USA, Russia and our enemy Germany, all without exception, committed a major war crime. We punished one side and had not the courage to face facts and do the same for our side. This is not excusable whatever the motives presented.
I'm of this generation who has a full responsibility for the occurrence of WWII and its huge massacre. The Allies especially the French (I'm French) and England for having set up the Versailles treaty and the reparations plan they persisted to have brought to its total accomplishment, ruining the German economy and by doing so setting up the conditions for an extremist mad man to exacerbate the nationalism and the desire for vengeance of the German nation. You never, never take a positive result from hatred, desire of revenge, by humiliating your enemy. Israel today is exactly doing the same mistakes with the Palestinians, the USA by thinking they know best and never make mistakes and by their contempt of others civilizations and culture. All these crazy behaviors are slowly setting up the conditions for future deflagrations, but if these occurs they will not last 5 or 6 years but a few hours and the result will be an empty planet....
It's a lengthy miniseries mostly in German with English subtitles. I wish more Americans were able to see this because it's intelligent, and many American's don't seem to get out much, and the younger among us don't hear much about Dresden. They're lucky if they know who fought who in World War II. Really. Forty percent of high school seniors think the US fought with the Nazis against the Russians in WW2. That's high school seniors, mind you.
Back to the film. Like many mini-series it has multiple sub plots and an abundance of improbabilities. There's a nice couple, the Goldbergs, still surviving in Dresden because the wife is not a Jew. Yes, there were still Jews at large in Germany. One of the survivors of Dresden was the diarist Victor Klemperer, cousin to Otto, the conductor, and Werner Klemperer, or Colonel Klink as he's better known.
There is Felicitas Woll's family -- an upright doctor/father who is trying desperately to bribe the way for his wife and daughters to Basel. (Kids, Basel is in Switzerland. Switzerland was neutral in World War II. It's usually neutral in war time because nobody wants a bunch of mountains, cows and cuckoo clocks.) They don't make it. Felicitas' love affair with the British pilot doesn't survive the immediate post-war period.
I can't describe all of the details of all of the sub plots. The acting is unimpeachable and the photography and CGIs are outstanding for a TV production. When Dresden has been turned into an inferno, we don't simply see buildings on fire. We see wind machine whipping burning pieces of debris and sometimes people through the air with hurricane force winds.
And there are some unusual touches. When bombs leave the Lancasters, they cause the release mechanisms to rattle. It's a small thing but no one has bothered with it before. And when there is the flash of a distant explosion, it takes a second or two for the WHOOM to reach the viewers. The dropping of the red and green flares by the Pathfinder Mosquitoes has the awesome, benign beauty of a fireworks display on the Fourth of July at the fairgrounds of some small town in the Midwest.
There are some weaknesses too. John Light, as the fugitive pilot, may be a nice guy in real life but his part here limits him to suspicious scowls and he seems all jaw, like Powers Booth. If I were Felicitas Woll, I wouldn't fall in love with him at first sight, as she does. I'd fall in love with me and beg to come be my slave. Another gap in the historical record: the Americans completed the destruction of the ancient city with daylight raids. What the Brits didn't destroy, the American B-17s did. It's only alluded to once.
The bombing of Dresden has always been controversial. There have been arguments for and against it. The consensus seems to be that it was a political act designed to assure Stalin that we were still interested in weakening Germany's battles on the eastern front. Of course Dresden had some importance as a military target. Even a German apple orchard had some importance.
The problem is that the old city had little military significance because the war was already won and whatever local factories were still operating were in the suburbs, left untouched except by accident. The city itself was packed with refugees from the east, trying to escape the Russians. It was a terrible catastrophe. Civilians literally melted in air raid shelters. The film pins the blame on the Nazi regime that invited such mindless destruction, and on "Bomber" Harris, the RAF general who was determined the flatten every German city to destroy civilian morale. It didn't work. "Unsere mauern brechen, unsere herzen nicht," read the signs, until they were replaced by white flags. The Queen Mum unveiled a statue of Bomber Harris some years ago and there were some boos from the crowd.
It all somehow resonates with something Jimmy Carter said in his acceptance speech at the Nobel Peace Prize award: "War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn to live together in peace by killing each other's children."
It didn't quite end as i thought it would (characters wise), however it was a great insight into the "other side".
I've always thought the obliteration of Dresden was over the top, and to this day it is controversial.
Anyway, as another person said, this probably has more impact than a mere documentary.
Oh, and Felicitas Woll - even though it is a VERY serious subject matter, the film is worth watching just for her :)
The pilot is dumped into a melodramatic mess in which the father of his savior nurse - the head of the hospital - is withholding pain killer from the wounded German soldiers and citizens in order to sell them on the black market and buy his family a way out of Germany before the inevitable defeat. Not only that, the nurse's intended is a self-serving coward. It seems that the only one around who lives up to the German ideals is the wounded British pilot. Needless-to-say, a love affair blossoms between the nurse and the pilot.
But surrounding all of this melodrama is the story of Dresden written and produced by Germans whose view of the situation and the lives of the everyday citizens of a city that will soon become an incredible, flaming oven of death is insightful and horrifyingly realistic.
This film was excellently produced with a quest for accuracy - an accuracy that is hard to view but one that is necessary for anyone who contemplates the inhumanity of war. It is clear that the bombing of Dresden was more of a punishment of Germany rather than an attack needed to end an already devastating war.
There is much to learn in the special features of the DVD that add to the rewards of the film. If you - like myself - knew of the firebombing of Dresden, have read a little, but didn't know much more, I think you will find this a worthwhile viewing. Plus, there's a nice love story with agreeable actors.
What more can I say. It's steady, bitter, beautiful, staggering, marvelous. All in one movie.
It definitely is one of the rare movies that took me in it's grip and sucked me up.