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"Downfall"

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Conclusion / archive | Article from April 1, 2005

Film premiere of "Downfall" in Great Britain

From Tobias Armbrüster

Bruno Ganz (l.) As Adolf Hitler and Heino Ferch as Albert Speer in "Der Untergang" by Bernd Eichinger (AP)

The film "Downfall" about the last days of Adolf Hitler sparked discussions in this country last year. It has now been launched in Great Britain under the title "Downfall". The reactions of the British viewers range from great approval to a thoughtful echo.

"Downfall", the English translation for "Downfall", has been advertised in Great Britain for weeks. Unlike most other German films, "Downfall" is considered a blockbuster; it is not only shown in arthouse cinemas, but also in the large multiplex cinemas. The first British spectators in Leicester Square in London are thrilled.

"It was really good, very moving. In the end I really felt sorry for the Germans. Somehow strange, but that's how it was. It's a very sad film, but still excellent."

"I'm really surprised to see such a good film. I didn't expect that. It reminded me a bit of 'Das Boot', it had the same realism."

Alexandra Maria Lara as Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge (AP) "Der Untergang" is shown in British cinemas in the original language with subtitles. The British media have reported extensively on it since the German theatrical release last autumn. The director Oliver Hirschbiegel and several leading actors have interviews with the BBC and all major newspapers. The media interest is not surprising, because the UK is constantly following closely how the relationship between Germans and their recent past is developing.

All in all, "The Downfall" is rated positively in the British press and is often celebrated. Again and again there is talk of an overdue breaking of taboos in German cinema. Most critics cannot understand why "Der Untergang" sparked controversy in Germany. The author Will Self writes, for example, that the film is very realistic, and that the Germans might not be able to stand it.

Bruno Ganz in particular gets good reviews. The Times says that Ganz is much more convincing as Hitler than Alec Guiness and Anthony Hopkins, who have also tried the role before. - Fears that Hitler will come off as too sympathetic here are incomprehensible from a British point of view. Former Berlin correspondent Anne McElvoy in an interview with the BBC:

"I think you have to be an extremely staunch neo-Nazi to say after this film: Wow, Hitler was a great man. He's just too close to madness for that. Of course the film shows Hitler from his human side, but that he has to. Because if you always present Hitler as a monster, he would get something like a doll, but he was a flesh and blood person. "

Scene from the film "Der Untergang" (AP) However, there are thoughtful voices in Great Britain about this film launch. The critic Norman Lebrecht writes in the "Evening Standard" that "Downfall" arouses pity, and that it is dangerous when it comes to a man like Adolf Hitler. In the same newspaper, a concentration camp survivor speaks out who also saw the film. She writes that she hopes the film will bring shame to the Germans. At the same time, she said she felt sorry for the Germans for what had happened to them. The director Allan Hall writes that the film is another attempt to house-train the history of Nazi Germany - the Third Reich is presented here in a Nazi-Lite version, you feel as free and carefree as in an old knight's castle or in a museum.

One hears this accusation more and more often in Great Britain, not only in connection with "The Downfall". Many Britons see a general trend in Europe, not just in Germany, of reinterpreting the history of the Second World War and including the Germans in the camp of the victims. Anne MacElvoy also points out that the historical facts for this film have obviously been trimmed:

"You just have to prepare such material for the cinema. It would be boring, for example, if you just showed villains for two hours, even if they were all villains. That's why there are good Nazis and bad Nazis in this film. Those too but good Nazis have been through it for 12 years, but in the film they are suddenly surprised when they see that the SS is killing people. As a viewer, you wonder where these people have been all this time. Some characters were simply retouched. Above all, the figure of the Traudl Junge is not entirely consistent. Whether she was really just Adolf Hitler's innocent secretary must be questioned. "

The extensive reporting shows once again the great fascination in Great Britain for all Nazi topics. British newspapers also use every opportunity to print a picture of Adolf Hitler - the picture of Bruno Ganz in a Führer pose can therefore be seen everywhere at the moment. - A realistic film about "The Führer" seems like it was made for British cinemas. And if you talk to British viewers, you will quickly find yourself talking about Germany and the Third Reich.

"As a German, you see yourself in this. For me as an Englishman, it's something different. We know the story and how it ended. But I think it's good to be able to work in this way and Way to look back on what has happened. "

"I was born in the war, so I was always interested in that time. I learned a lot of new things in this film, it was the best description of these events that I have ever seen. And I think as many people as possible should go in." "

In fact, "Der Untergang" could become one of the most successful German films of recent years in British cinemas. In London alone the film was shown in 21 cinemas this evening.

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