The Downfall

downfallYear: 2004

Language: German

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Cast: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes

Der Untergang or The Downfall is a powerful movie about the last few days of the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler (Ganz). The Soviets had all but captured Berlin, surrounding it from all sides and attacking major outposts of the Nazi Army systematically. Downfall is based on the memoirs of Traudl Junge (Maria Lara), Hitler’s typist who was with him till the very end.

We see a flailing Hitler, slowly losing sense of reality, struggling to keep a grasp on the last vestiges of power remaining with him. The Soviets are closing in and he needs to take some quick, big decisions regarding his military and how they are going to fight off the advancing troops. But he refuses to listen to reason and is idiotically unaccepting of the fact that the Nazis have grossly underwhelming forces at their disposal when compared to the Soviet troops. His pig-headedness and refusal to surrender gives rise to the killing of a large number of civilians – something that he is cold-heartedly uncaring about.

The movie, for me, reinforces the curious nature of indoctrination. The variety of people who are unflinching in their loyalty towards their ‘Fuhrer’ and his inhuman policies is mind-boggling. And that is the essence of the movie. Traudl, his typist reveals much later that she is ashamed of the fact that she joined the Nazis and that the stars in her eyes for the father-figure she saw in Hitler made her blind to his obvious inhumanity. An interesting story in the film is that of one of Hitler’s ministers, Goebbels (Matthes) and his wife, Marta who says, ‘My children cannot grow up in a world without National Socialism,’ and then proceeds to kill all 6 of them before committing suicide.

One of Hitler’s dialogues in the film clearly sums up the case for collateral damage, ‘Compassion is an eternal sin. To feel compassion for the weak is a betrayal of nature.’ This is a must-watch for history buffs. And for everyone else who finds German history fascinating.

Verdict: Fascinating glimpse into the last stages of Hitler’s life leading up to his suicide.

Rating: 4/5

Hot: The vignettes of history the film offers and the downfall of a ruthless, cruel dictator.

Not: Slightly long at 2 hours and 35 minutes but gripping all the same, especially if you are a war history buff.