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Alone in Berlin (2016)

R | | Drama | 13 January 2017 (USA)
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After a Nazi German working class couple loses their son in World War II, they decide to retaliate by secretly leafletting handwritten cards in Berlin denouncing their government.

Director:

Vincent Perez

Writers:

Achim von Borries (screenplay), Vincent Perez (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Emma Thompson ... Anna Quangel
Daniel Brühl ... Escherich
Brendan Gleeson ... Otto Quangel
Mikael Persbrandt ... SS Officer Prall
Louis Hofmann ... Hans Quangel
Katharina Schüttler ... Claire Gehrich
Godehard Giese ... Colonel Krüger
Jacob Matschenz Jacob Matschenz ... Dietrich Necker
Rainer Reiners ... Salesman Franz Kanz
Ernst Stötzner Ernst Stötzner ... Dptm. Head Walter
Katharina Abt Katharina Abt ... Flower Shop lady I. Schneider
Monique Chaumette Monique Chaumette ... Frau Rosenthal
Uwe Preuss ... Persicke
Jürgen Tarrach Jürgen Tarrach ... Caretaker Richard Schopf
Luisa Wolf ... Secretary
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Storyline

In 1940, German soldier Hans Quangel is killed in action during the French campaign. His parents, Otto and Anna, are devastated by the loss and their bereavement is unmollified by the joyful hysteria at Germany's victory. Deciding that Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime are responsible for this tragedy and much more, Otto cannot stand by any longer. As such, Otto begins to create handwritten cards denouncing the regime's abuses and lies, which he secretly deposits throughout Berlin while a disillusioned Anna insists on helping him. As the subversive cards pile up over the years, police detective Escherich is tasked to track down the leafleteer while being pressured by his increasingly impatient SS superior for an arrest for this "treason," regardless of actual guilt. As the stakes rise even as Nazi Germany's day of reckoning approaches, Otto and Anna are determined to spread the truth regardless of the odds even as their opposition awaits the fatal mistake that could doom them. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The truth was their resistance. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | France | Germany

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 January 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cartas de Berlín See more »

Filming Locations:

Görlitz, Saxony, Germany See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson previously appeared in many films of the Harry Potter franchise. See more »

Quotes

Escherich: Think about it Quangel. Every single card was turned in to us voluntarily. We didn't find any ourselves. They couldn't wait to hand them over to us. All those people. Some were arrested. One committed suicide. How could you seriously believe that you would change anything? You! Foreman Quangel.
Otto Quangel: Who killed himself?
Escherich: That doesn't matter. A small fish. Insignificant.
Otto Quangel: Everyone is significant.
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Connections

Version of Jeder stirbt für sich allein (1962) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A story of how heroic postcards became small grains of sand in the Nazi war-machine
9 March 2017 | by CineMuseFilmsSee all my reviews

War films are stories writ large about aggression between nations. Few of them explore small-scale human undercurrents of suppressed dissent inside the countries at war. Alone in Berlin (2016) does this by looking at an ordinary working-class couple and their compulsion to express feelings about Hitler's dictatorship at time where dissent meant certain death. It is also an essay on parental grief struggling to voice its pain of loss.

Based on real events, the story opens in a small flat in Berlin where Otto Quangel (Brendan Gleeson) and his wife Anna (Emma Thompson) learn that their son has died in battle. In a long marriage that is under strain, the news pushes them further apart as they cannot console each other in grief. Otto had encouraged his son to join the Nazi army and now Anna blames him for their loss. Desperate to voice his rage against Hitler's regime, he painstakingly writes postcards and secretly leaves them on stairwells and doorways where they can be seen by passers-by: he calls them "small grains of sand in Hitler's machine". Initially he keeps Anna away from his dangerous mission, but she insists on being involved and they both become clandestine resistance fighters whose weapons are simple messages about the evils of Nazism. They manage to write and distribute over 260 cards despite extensive investigative efforts to stop them. In the process, they resurrect their marital relationship. After almost two years of card-writing they are caught and together face Nazi justice.

This film has two parallel narratives that start in opposition and end in convergence: one is Otto and Anna's actions, the other is the investigation. The first is focused on the smallness of the couple's actions in contrast to the enormous risk they are taking, like a pair of mice squeaking at roaring lions. The filming, colour palette and period setting are drab and lifeless; the atmosphere is paranoid with suspicion and mistrust; and the acting is subdued and understated. Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson are actors with broad performance repertoires but here they are minimalist in expression and Spartan in dialogue, with much being conveyed through furtive glances or avoided eye-contact. It is a slow-moving story, observant of small details in an alienated world. This has the effect of amplifying the intensity of Otto and Anna's actions. Close-ups of a pen leaving a trail of outrage on a small white card become powerful portraits of bravery that are ultimately futile as most of the cards were handed in to authorities. The couple's nemesis is a young German investigator (Daniel Bruhl) who pursues his work with ideological fervour for the Fuhrer but whose success turns into the film's most devastating moments of despair.

This is a joyless story about humble heroism. Otto and Anna are emblematic of ordinary people dealing with tragedy and anger inside a world of fear and danger. Far from being mere victims, their small protests seriously unsettled the Nazi hierarchy and the closing scenes are a tribute to the power of their "small grains of sand".


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