Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Downfall (2004 Film)

Downfall is one of my favourite films of all time, its amazing.  Released in 2004 it is a German film,and know as Der Untergang.  It comes with English subtitles  depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitlers reign over Nazi Germany in 1945.

The film is based upon the books Inside Hitlers Bunker, by historian Joachim Fest;
Until the Final Hour, the memoirs of Traudle Junge, one of Hitler's secretaries; Albert Speers memoirs, Inside the Thrid Reich; Hitler's Last Days: An Eye–Witness Account, by Boldt; Das Notlazarett unter der Reichskanzlei: Ein Arzt erlebt Hitlers Ende in Berlin by Doctor Schenck; and, Knappe's memoirs, Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936–1949.


The acting in this film is just amazing, Bruno Ganz, playing Hitler is first rate!  Ganz conducted four months of research to prepare for the role, studying an 11-minute recording of Hitler in private conversation with Finnish Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim in order to mimic Hitler's conversational voice and distinct Austrian dialect properly.

Let's take a plot run down....


The movie begins with the real-life Traudl Junge expressing guilt and shame for admiring Hitler in her youth. In 1942 a group of German secretaries are escorted to Hitlers's compound at the Wolfs Lair, including young Traudl.

The story resumes on April 20, 1945, Hitler's 56th birthday, as the Battle of Berlin is under way. Traudl is awakened, along with her fellow secretary and cook, by a loud blast. Hitler emerges from his office demanding answers. Hitler learns from GeneralsBurgdorf and Koller that the Red Army is within 12 kilometers of central Berlin.

At his birthday reception, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and his SS adjutant Hermann Fegelein plead with Hitler to leave the city. Instead, Hitler declares, "I will defeat them in Berlin, or face my downfall." Himmler leaves to negotiate surrender terms with the Western Allies behind Hitler's back.
In another part of the city, a group of Hitler Youth members continues to build defences. Peter, a boy in the group, is urged by his father to desert. Peter resists and later, members of his unit are awarded the Iron Cross by Hitler.

SS doctor Ernst-Günther Schenck is ordered to evacuate Berlin as part of Operation Clausewitz. Schenck persuades an SS general to let him stay to treat the wounded and starving. Schenck is requested by Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke to bring available medical supplies to the Reich Chancellery. After finding medical supplies at a deserted hospital, Schenck unsuccessfully tries to prevent the summary execution of two old men by members of a Greifkommando or Feldgendarmerie. Meanwhile, Hitler discusses his new scorched earth policy with his Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer. Eva Braun ignores Fegelein's pleas to leave Berlin and holds a party for the bunker inhabitants which is broken up by artillery shells.

The next day, General Helmut Weidling receives word that he is to be executed for ordering a retreat to the west against Hitler's orders. Weidling explains that there was a mistake and he is spared, only to be appointed to oversee the city's defences.

Later, Hitler is informed by Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl that the 9th Army, under the command of Theodor Busse, is in danger of annihilation. Hitler announces that Waffen-SS General Felix Steiner's unit will assist the 9th with help from Walther Wencks 12th Army, and attack the Soviets from the north.

Another day passes and General Hans Krebs informs Hitler that Berlin's defences have further disintegrated. Hitler still believes Steiner's attack will control the Russian charge, but Krebs and Jodl tell him Steiner did not have sufficient forces. Hitler dismisses everyone from the room except for Burgdorf, Krebs, Jodl, and Keitel, then flies into a rage against his troops and generals. Hitler finally acknowledges that the war is lost, but insists that he will remain in Berlin and commit suicide.
General Mohnke is outraged when he sees conscripted civilians under the command of Joseph Goebbels needlessly gunned down. Mohnke has them removed from the line of fire and returns to the Reich Chancellery to confront Goebbels. Goebbels tells Mohnke that he has no pity for the civilians, as they chose their fate. Hitler, Braun, Traudl, and Gerda Christian discuss various means of suicide whilst Krebs, Burgdorf, and other military staff get drunk. Hitler gives Christian and Traudl one cyanide capsule each. Eva Braun and Magda Goebbels type goodbye letters.

Hitler loses his sense of reality. Field Marshal Keitel is ordered to find Admiral Karl Dönitz, who Hitler believes is gathering troops in the north, and help him plan an offensive to recover the Romanian oil fields. Oberscharführer Rochus Misch, Hitler's radio operator, receives a telegram from Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring, asking permission to assume command and become head-of-state. Hitler orders Göring's arrest. Speer urges Hitler to halt the scorched-earth orders, but Hitler refuses. Speer confesses that he never implemented the plan. Hitler is shaken but allows Speer to leave.
Hitler summons General Robert Ritter von Greim and his mistress, ace pilot Hanna Reitsch to the bunker and appoints von Greim Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe. At dinner, Hitler receives a report that Himmler has attempted to negotiate a separate peace settlement with the Western Allies. Betrayed, Hitler explodes in a tearful rage. He orders von Greim and Reitsch to leave Berlin, rendezvous with Dönitz and ensure that Himmler is dealt with. Hitler delusively assures von Greim that his ordered counter-strikes can be carried out with a thousand jet aircraft, which do not exist. Reichsphysician SS Ernst-Robert Grawitz, the head of the German Red Cross and responsible for Nazi human medical experiments, requests that he be allowed to leave Berlin for fear of reprisal. Hitler denies his request, assuring him that he has done nothing shameful. Grawitz returns to his apartment and kills his family and himself with grenades.

Hitler wishes to speak to Fegelein about Himmler's treachery but Fegelein has deserted. Hitler demands that Fegelein be found. A RSD squad arrests Fegelein. Despite a tearful plea to Hitler by Eva Braun to spare her brother-in-law, Fegelein is executed by Peter Högl. Weidling reports to Hitler there are no reserves left and air support has ceased. Mohnke reports that the Red Army is only 300 to 400 metres from the Reich Chancellery and that defending forces can hold out for only a day or two at most. Hitler reassures the officers that General Walther Wenck's 12th Army will save them. After Hitler leaves the conference room, Weidling asks the other generals if it is truly possible for Wenck to attack; they agree it is impossible.

After midnight, Hitler dictates his last will and testament to Traudl, before marrying Eva Braun. Hitler has ordered Goebbels to leave Berlin, but Goebbels intends to die with Hitler. When Hitler's adjutant Otto Günsche brings a reply from Keitel that Wenck's army cannot continue its assault, Hitler forbids all officers to surrender on pain of summary execution. Hitler then gives Günsche the order to cremate his body and that of Eva Braun. Hitler summons Dr. Schenck, Dr. Werner Haase, and nurse Erna Flegel to the bunker to thank them for their services. Dr. Haase explains to Hitler the best method for suicide as well as administering poison to Hitler's dog, Blondi. Braun gives Traudl one of her best coats and makes her promise to flee the bunker. Hitler eats his final meal in silence with Manziarly and his secretaries. He bids farewell to the bunker staff, gives Magda his own Golden Party Badge Number 1, and retires to his room with Braun. Frantic at the thought of a world without Hitler, Magda pleads with Hitler to change his mind. Hitler states, "Tomorrow, millions of people will curse me, but fate has taken its course."

Adolf and Eva Hitler retreat to their rooms and commit suicide. Their bodies are carried through the bunker's emergency exit to the Reich Chancellery garden. The corpses are doused in petrol and set alight; given one final Nazi salute. Thereafter, General Krebs leads a delegation through the Russian lines and tries to negotiate peace terms with Soviet Lieutenant-General Vasily Chuikov. Chuikov says that the Soviets will accept only unconditional surrender, but Krebs does not have the authority, so he returns to the bunker.

Magda Goebbels poisons her six children while her husband waits. Then Goebbels and Magda proceed up to the Chancellery garden, where Goebbels shoots his wife and himself. The people remaining in the bunker agree that they must try to break out. Krebs and Burgdorf commit suicide as the rest evacuate. Weidling goes out and broadcasts to all Berliners that the Führer is dead; he calls for a ceasefire with General Chuikov.

Meanwhile, Schenck and Walther Hewel stay with Mohnke and his remaining SS troops, who debate about what to do once the Soviet troops arrive. Schenck tries to talk sense into Hewel who promised Hitler he would kill himself. When news reaches the officers that Berlin has been surrendered, Hewel and several SS officers shoot themselves. Outside, child soldier Peter finds that his post has been obliterated and his colleagues are dead. On a side street, the menacing Greifkommando or Feldgendarmerie men stalk across his path. Peter enters a nearby apartment and finds the squad has executed his parents.

While the Red Army ranks are only blocks away, Traudl decides to leave. Peter emerges in civilian clothes, takes her hand and pulls her through the masses. Moving ahead, Traudl blunders into a celebrating drunken Red Army soldier. Peter tugs her arm and she hastens away. At a ruined bridge, Peter finds a bicycle and they pedal away from Berlin. The epilogue then tells the fates of the other characters and one final segment where the real life Traudl appears before the credits.


The film is set mostly in and around the Führerbunker. Hirschbiegel made an effort to reconstruct accurately the look and atmosphere of the bunker through eyewitness accounts, survivors' memoirs and other historical sources. According to his commentary on the DVD, Der Untergang was filmed in Berlin, Munich, and in a district of Saint Petersburg, Russia, which, with its many buildings designed by German architects, was said to resemble many parts of 1940s Berlin. The film was ranked number 48 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "Certified Fresh" rating of 91%, based on 133 reviews (121 "fresh", 12 "rotten"), with an average score of 8.0/10. The site's general consensus is: "Downfall is an illuminating, thoughtful and detailed account of Hitler's last days". Metacritic gave the film a score of 82 out of 100, based on 35 reviews, indicating "Universal Acclaim".

I really can not say enough good things about this film, watch it, the acting is so powerful, and the story an important part of our history. Go watch it!