Der Untergang (Downfall)

 

Oliver Hirschbiegel, Director

Bruno Ganz (Adolf Hitler)

Alexandra Maria Lara (Traudl Junge)

Corinna Harfouch (Magda Goebbels)

Ulrich Matthes (Joseph Goebbels)

Juliane Köhler (Eva Braun)

Christian Berkel (Prof. Dr. Ernst-Günter Schenck)


A superb dramatic production, Downfall (Der Untergang) has set the standard of excellence for historical films. Based on Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich by Joachim Fest, Until the Final Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary by Traudl Junge and Melissa Müller, and the memoirs of Albert Speer and Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, the film admirably presents the excruciating agony of the final days of the Third Reich. The film has been criticized for portraying its characters —some of whom were the top criminals in Hitler's regime— sympathetically. But this criticism misses the point of the movie. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel set out to depict his characters not as stereotyped malevolent demons but, more chillingly, as what they were in real life: ordinary human beings blinded by a fanatical ideology and depraved by absolute power. The tacit message is that this can happen to anyone, in any society, when humane values and moral principles are quashed by political dictates borne of irrational beliefs. This sobering thought is the film's greatest contribution to posterity.