That Movie Book – Week Thirty
Week Thirty! We made it! Only, uh, twenty two more weeks to go? It doesn’t sound like much of an achievement when I put it like that, I guess. Anyway, I’m still pretty proud that I’ve gotten this far with only a few missed weeks.
This week’s theme was “Nazis Are Bad: just in case you forgot”. The theme is pretty straight forward, but not particularly appealing. I have always been interested in the Nazis in general, fascinated at the awful things that were done at that time. I go through phases of watching documentaries about the concentration camps, watching people talk about what happened to them and feeling awful but at the same time not being able to stop watching. Even though I find them interesting, I wasn’t really looking forward to spending my weekend watching films about it. I only managed to get through one of the suggestions, and that was enough for me.
I watched Downfall. It focuses on the last twelve days of Hitler’s life, where he’s stuck in a bunker under Berlin while the Russian Army advance and there’s no one left on the German side to come and help.
(I know the quality isn’t great, but it was the best trailer I could find with subtitles)
This was a good film, albeit harrowing. It is a bit of a slog at two and a half hours, in German with subtitles, but it was still interesting enough to keep my attention for the majority of the time. My one major gripe was that there wasn’t much blood for a movie about war. I’m not saying it should have been super gory, but when someone shoots themselves in the head there should be less head left than most people seemed to have. At one point a guy shot himself in the head and fell to the ground, but there was no bullet wound on his head at all. It is telling how much more violent things are these days that it makes it noticeable when things aren’t realistically bloody, even to someone like me who doesn’t play really bloody video games. I’m not even that big a fan of gore, but when you show someone cutting limbs off soldiers, there has to be some blood coming out of the wound. That’s just common sense. It got pretty distracting after a while.
I do think that the way Hitler was portrayed in this was quite well done, though. Marc Fennell made a good point in the book, which I didn’t really think about until after I finished the movie. He said there’s a fine line when it come to portraying people like the Nazis; you run the risk of either trivialising what they did, or making them into a stereotypical bad guy cliché. Downfall managed to tread that line quite well, showing that Hitler was pretty crazy and ordered awful things to be done, but also showed how he treated the people he liked who were around him well. There is a line between Eva Braun and one of Hitler’s secretaries, Traudel, which works well at describing this duality:
Traudel: It seems he doesn’t want anyone to see inside him[… ]In private he can be such a caring person. But then he says such…brutal things.
Eva: When he’s the Fuhrer?
It simply shows that Hitler wasn’t this caricature of an evil person. He was just a person; a person that did a lot of terrible things, but still just a person, with good points and bad. By the end of it he was obviously sick and didn’t want to admit failure, and he probably has something not right mentally to make it seemingly so easy to just let people continue to die fighting over a lost war. It’s not an excuse for what he did, and I don’t necessarily feel sorry for him, but it was still a good, fairly balanced portrayal of him at that time in history.
By the time I finished watching this is was pretty emotionally drained to even think about watching any of the other suggestions, especially seeing it was Sunday before I could convince myself to watch this one. As it is I still dreamed of Jewish people trying to escape from people trying to capture them last night. The other films that were suggested were The Great Dictator (with Charlie Chaplin), Judgement at Nuremberg (which I was considering watching), The Reader, and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. If watching things about the Nazis is your thing, maybe check those ones out. Next week is Miyazaki Week, so I am going to try reeeeeeeally hard to watch all five films. Because Miyazaki is great.