On the DVD: Conspiracy comes to DVD with text profiles of the four leading actors and the director and two featurettes, one running two minutes, the other four, neither of which is any more than an electronic press-kit. Sound is clear, perfectly good Dolby Surround, while the picture, though anamorphically enhanced at 16:9, is no more than adequate. --Gary S Dalkin
On January 20, 1942, with Nazi armies stalled in the snow at the gates of Moscow, a lakeside mansion in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee is the venue for a conference. Fifteen government bureaucrats and high ranking officers of the SS gather. History is advised to remember these otherwise appallingly ordinary representatives of the human species: SS General Reinhard Heydrich (Reich Security Main Office), SS Lt. Colonel Adolf Eichmann (Office of Jewish Affairs), SS Lt. General Heinrich Müller (Gestapo), Gerhard Klopfer (Nazi Party Chancellery), Wilhelm Kritzinger (Reichs-Chancellery), SS Lt. General Otto Hofmann (Race and Settlement Main Office), Dr. Georg Liebbrandt and Dr. Alfred Meyer (Reichs-Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories), Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart (Reichs-Ministry of the Interior), Undersecretary Martin Luther (Foreign Ministery), SS Major Rudolf Lange (SS Taskforces in Latvia), Director Erich Neumann (Office of the Four Year Plan), Dr. Joseph Bühler and SS Colonel Karl Schöngarth (Government-General of Occupied Poland), and Dr. Roland Freisler (Reichs-Ministry of Justice).
Even after coerced emigration, 132,000 Jews remain in Germany. As the Wehrmacht gobbles up territory, millions more - potentially 11 million - will come under Nazi control. As it's put in this film, there's a burgeoning "storage problem", and the chairman of the meeting, Heydrich (Kenneth Branagh), is calling for unanimous agreement on a "final solution".
As the viewer sees, it's not the concept of the eradication of the Jews from Germany and the occupied territories that fuels the debate, it's the modus operandi, and which individuals, particularly those of impure blood resulting from a confusing variety of mixed marriages, are to be targeted. At one point, even the semantics of the process - "evacuation" vs. "execution" - are at issue. And, of course, it all must be done legally as proscribed by the Nuremburg Laws. Finally, after the group dances around the issue of method, Heydrich and his deputy Eichmann (Stanley Tucci) get to the crux of the matter. The Jews are to be gassed in special camps established for that purpose. At the current stage of technology, the gold standard is apparently 60,000 exterminations a day.
The impact of CONSPIRACY derives from the chilling ordinariness of the conference and its tone. These fifteen might just as well be the top management of a large corporation discussing the eradication of rats from one of its manufacturing sites, or the construction of an assembly line to produce more and better widgets. As a note of interest, nine of those present were lawyers by training.
Branagh renders a positively brilliant performance as the ultimate devil's advocate, who steers the meeting to its foregone conclusion with a mixture of charm and quiet menace. When Kritzinger (David Threfall) objects that Hitler has declared to him personally that execution of the Jews is not his intent, Heydrich cooly reminds him, "Yes, and he will continue to do so." Plausible deniability, you see. And later in a private conversation when Heydrich demands Kritzinger's full support, the SS General remarks that the latter would be a difficult man to bring down - but it could be managed.
At the film's conclusion, the fate of all involved is provided in text overlay. Heydrich was assassinated by Czech partisans. Eichmann, Bühler and Schöngarth were tried and executed. All the rest either went free for lack of war crimes evidence, served time and were released, died of natural causes, were killed in the closing months of the war, or just disappeared. Indeed, Klopfer sold insurance after the war and presumably died in his bed.
The Final Solution took planning. As Eichmann angrily berates an Army chauffeur for engaging on whim in an undignified snowball fight with his fellow drivers awaiting their masters, "Things just don't happen."
The record of the Wannsee Conference which served as the basis for CONSPIRACY came from Luther's copy of the minutes discovered after the war. Ironically, Luther himself was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1944 for plotting against his boss in the Foreign Ministry.
This film crosses over to the very uncomfortable but entirely necessary realms that the people who devised this despicable crime were not in fact monsters from another world but did actually belong to our own species (a problem people still seem to have, looking at the stupid criticisms of the recent Hitler biopic "Max", from people saying he shouldn't be "humanised").
The script is very subtle in respect to how it shows many of these people (despite being very "central players") have simply been so acclimatised to treating the Jews as subhuman that they (almost) lose any moral conscience. It shows the latent intellectual hypocrisy and weakness of Nazi intellectuals and the blatant contradictions of Nazi philosophy itself. And yes, it does show the tiny cracks of consciece and misgivings that one or two of the people present had (but of course lacked the confidence and dominance of Heidrich to chage anything).
All of the central actors interpret their subjects brilliantly (particularly Colin Firth), but owing both to his performance and the nature of his character Kenneth Branagh makes this ultimately his film. Reynard Heidrich is pretty much universially credited with being the architect of the "final solution", as well as being particularly sadistic and perverse in his personal treatment of Jews. With all this in mind, it must have been challenging to put it mildly for Branagh to try to truthfully portray both the idealistic relish he took in the plan and the casual threatening and belittling of his peers which didn't completey conform, together with the physical dominance and dare I say charisma that he must have had (and is portrayed) to so effortlessly convince those around him of his doctrine.
The film is beautifully shot in a cold blue-white light, complimenting the elegant surroundings and of course the subject matter, and the directing is kept to a stylistic minimum.
At its most fundamental, "Conspiracy" is simply an important film, it concentrates on elements of the Holocaust which have been touched on very little, but need to be if we are ever to understand and prevent such disgusting things ever happening again. Like all important stories, it attempts to explore the human condition and what it is capable of, what we are ALL capable of, whether it be beautiful or hideously ugly. If we think ignorantly that because the Holocaust has happened it couldn't happen again, that *WE* could never be prone to submisiveness in such crimes, then the future is truly bleak.... the only way to learn from such things is to UNDERSTAND how they happen and how everyone can be susceptible. This story is as relevant now as it ever has been.
The Acting was superb, with arguably the best performance being that of Kenneth Brannagh. The direcion is subtle, yet inspiring, with attention played to small details of the characters and the movements which display their beleifs and in a few cases unease at thieir task. The sets are an exact replica of the room itself - again allowing the viewer to feel as if they are themselves present at this most despicable of moments in history. All in all a thoruoughly rewarding production, which although focussing upon a deeply disturbing topic, still allows the viewer to see plainly, the higly organised, yet demonic system of Nazi leadership
This product's forum
Active discussions in related forums
Search Customer Discussions