on February 18, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
Already controversial in its native Germany, "Downfall" has been criticized for offering a sympathetic picture of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Regrettably, there's truth in that charge. While actor Bruno Ganz's impersonation of Hitler is utterly convincing--and the film does not ignore his fanatical tirades or despicable pronouncements--there are a few too many moments when he comes across as a broken old man whose world has shattered around him, even if he brought the calamity on himself. Taking place in the last few days before Hitler's suicide in Berlin in 1945, "Downfall" indelibly captures the chaos of Germany at the end of the war, as people try to flee for their lives or end them in service to the Nazi dream. It's a fascinating historical period but one that, in this revisionist film, ends up casting the German civilian populace--who were cheering Hitler on to nearly the end--as pathetic victims of war, and the Nazis mostly as principled fighters, worried about civilian casualties. Of course, not all Germans were cut from the same insane, evil mold, but if "Downfall," which goes on much too long and bloodily, is any indication, they weren't that bad, either. At this rate, by 2008, the Nazis will be the wronged parties in a war started by the West. Starring Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara and Ulrich Matthes. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. Written by Bernd Eichinger. Produced by Bernd Eichinger. A Newmarket release. Drama. German-language; subtitled. Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images and some nudity. Running time: 135 min
Tags: tarring Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes, Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, Written by Bernd Eichinger, Produced by Bernd Eichinger, Newmarket, Drama

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