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Berlin, 1941. Five friends eager to become heroes in an adventure that will change the face of Europe - and that will forever change them as well. Level-headed, highly decorated officer Wilhelm is off to the eastern front with his younger brother Friedhelm, a sensitive dreamer more interested in literature than warfare. Deeply in love with Wilhelm is Charlotte, a young nurse who looks forward to serving in the Wehrmacht, also on the eastern front. While Greta is a talented singer who longs to become another Marlene Dietrich, her Jewish boyfriend Viktor still cannot convince his parents to leave Germany... Valor and courage come to the fore, but also betrayal - of values, beliefs, humanity. Friedhelm turns into a soulless killing machine... Wilhelm deserts his troops and is court-martialed... Charlotte's Nazi ideology crumbles when she betrays a Jewish nurse helping the German army... Greta obtains papers for Viktor's escape by selling herself to an SS colonel. They and millions of ...Written by
Like a mirror image of Der Untergang, the film depicts the lives of ordinary German people during the same period and shown with the same brutal honesty. It should also be based on real life events, since at the end they show how much each of the protagonists lived.
The plot revolves around five friends, in their late teens and early twenties, happily partying before some of them are sent to the front for the war that "would end by Christmas". There are two brothers, sons of an asshole father who loves just one of them. The unloved one naturally is an intellectual and an artist, while the other is the pride of his father. Then there are two girls, one wishing to become a star like Marlene Dietrich and another preparing to go to the front as a nurse to help the fatherland. Also in their group of friends is the boyfriend of the wannabe starlet, who is also a Jew.
Now, they all start with expectations, the first being that the war will be swift and won by Germany. Other such expectations reduce the rate of violence related deaths in a war, make Germans leave nice Jews alone, applaud the loving and caring nature of humans everywhere and . The war changes all of those in a gruesome three parter film that lasts for almost five hours. Years later, when the war is actually over, they meet at the café where they optimistically planned to party that first Christmas, their souls and lives in tatters.
The story is complex, the script well done, the war effects and related scenes are realistic, the characters are human and change a lot through the film, the acting is exceptional. It is certainly at least one order of magnitude better than most American war movies, perhaps because the sense of hopelessness given by a war lost (morally at least) way before it began gives everything an uncomfortably realistic grit. Any acts done in the name of god and country look and feel completely stupid and pointless, and are not sold as heroic drama moments. Good guys don't always make it and bad guys escape unpunished.
If you like war movies this is a good one and I submit that this film will appeal even to people who don't generally watch the genre - like myself. It also makes me want to watch more German films in the hope that they would be just as good.
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