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4.2 out of 5 stars97
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 24 January 2012
Reading the other reviews you will have twigged that this is the German film 'Napola', which I agree is excellent and which I already own. However I must deplore the DVD cover's complete misrepresentation of the film: this is not about 'a young man sent to serve on the frontline in one of the most ferocious battles of WWII' it's about two pupils in a Nazi boarding school (Napola = national political academy), there are no fleets of planes and it's about Germans, for chrissakes - there are no British or Americans to be seen. There's been a marked tendency recently for cynical distributors to re-title and package intelligent war films as mindless 'blood & guts' action films, and Amazon just cravenly reproduces their blurb. It does a real disservice to the films and completely misleads customers: as a consumer I deeply resent it.
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on 27 October 2006
Rising star Max Riemelt goes from strength to strength with his appearance in this film about a relatively unknown aspect of the Nazi regime, namely its reconstructing and discipling of the minds of teenagers destined to be future super troopers - or not as is the case for two of the cadets. The film explores the relationships between the cadets, and with their military teachers, and the perception of all of their roles in the Nazi juggernaut that unbeknown to them will ultimately falter, dragging down all and sundry into the ignominious but necessary end. The performances are strong, the scenic backdrop enhancing, and the technicalities underpin the film perfectly. It can be ranked as a worthy companion of the excellent film, Downfall.
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on 22 January 2013
I won't waste time reviewing the film itself other than to state that this is a re-titled re-release of the outstanding movie "NAPOLA".

The movie itself is a fantastic piece of film making with excellent performances and terrific period detail. This re-released DVD however is nothing more than an insult not only to consumers but more importantly to the film makers responsible for the original release.

For some unknown reason Metrodome Distribution have re-titled this product and re-designed the packaging of the Dvd, however the biggest insult comes in two further alterations.

"NAPOLA" (the original release of this movie) was filmed and released in a 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format. Despite being listed on the current "Before The Fall" packaging as a 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation, this re-release is actually a poorly altered PAN & SCAN version when compared to the original widescreen Dvd. This is evident when viewing the movie, even to those who have not seen the original, as parts of the full image are very clearly cut at the sides of the frame.

In addition to the altered picture format, this re-release also suffers from re-edited subtitles when compared with the "NAPOLA" release. Whilst the general meaning is similar the accompanying subtitles are not a direct translation of the actors dialogue. Why these alterations have been made is beyond comprehension as the original of this movie was, and still is an example of outstanding movie making, the kind that can't be found in the standard run of the mill hollywood releases.

In short, if you have a genuine interest in WW2 subject matter you will undoubtedly find this film a worthy addition to your collection. This said, I would strongly recommend paying slightly more money and finding yourself a copy of the original "NAPOLA" release in order to view the movie as the director intended us to see it.

Avoid this re-release at all costs.
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on 8 February 2014
Guess what ? I've been after 'Napola' for a long time and now I've accidentally bought it! I had no idea that this DVD was the film that I've wanted for years!

Why, oh why do they do this? The cover art has nothing at all to do with the film's plot; you might as well put the artwork from the film poster of Texas Chainsaw Massacre on a DVD case containing Mary Poppins! The blurb on the back of the case was outrageously erroneous and appears as if it was written by someone who has not even seen the film. This isn't the only instance of Metrodome engaging in such behaviour [Amongst Heroes and The Fallen are another two].

Apart from that one gripe, everything else about this excellent German film is OK. Good plot and, as regards uniform detail,spot on.

Finally, another instance of irrelevant art work. I've just looked at 'Beyond the Front Line', a film concerning the experiences of a Finnish regiment during the Winter War and through the so called 'Continuation War'. Oh no! The box has images of American soldiers on the front cover. WHY?
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on 15 November 2012
"Before the Fall" (German Film called "Napola") DVD NAPOLA is really about two young students from opposite sides of the fence, finding themselves and each other whilst schooled in the National Political Academy. The Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten (NPEA or Napola) were boarding schools for those classed as the elite. The entrance exams required careful screening to ensure that their blood was pure, and that they met the requirements of the Nazi ideal. Physical defects and below average intelligence were not acceptable, and each recruit exemplified the ideal to which the German ideal aspired.

The broad intention was to train the future political leaders (Governors), military and administrative leaders of the German Empire (as it was intended), where these young men would assume the mantles of political heads in territories won by the advancing force, as well as provide the necessary leadership in the war machine itself. For this reason the academies were often brutal, demanding a great deal from their young recruits intellectually, physically and emotionally. Weakness was not tolerated, and it was considered a great honour to be selected. It is therefore, not surprising that many who attended these academies found senior positions within the SS, and other arms of the German army.

Lessons were steeped in the rhetoric of German nationalism, and founded on the belief that the purity of the race placed them above the rest of the world. Here the son of a butcher was considered equal to the son of a political leader, which is where the two main characters Freiderich and Albrecht find themselves. The former being a son of a working class idealist (ironically opposed the ideals of the new Germany as it was known then), and the latter the son of high ranking military governor (whose brutality knows no bounds). Idealistically opposed they find kinship with each other, developing a profound bond which transcends and ordinary friendship. Each are the others strength, and together they find resonance and spirit denied them by their families. Albrecht's father loathes his son's perceived weakness, desiring that he would be more like Freiderich (an accomplished boxer). Whereas in truth, Albrecht displays a noble intellect that places him far above his peers, and an inner morality that sets him apart from his peers. Freiderich is similarly denied the recognition and love of his father, who ironically would have Freiderich more like Albrecht in his opposition to the Gestapo.

Spoiler: All comes to a head when one fatal night Albrecht's father orders the young recruits into the war effort, to track and capture escaped Russian POW's. Inciting them with stories of how these prisoners strangled their German guards and made off with their weapons. The young men are sent unaccompanied into the wilderness to recapture these prisoners, having had only basic military training. They react as one would expect, and a true horror unfolds forcing the young men out of their naivety into the full horror of war. Freiderich and Albrecht find themselves overwhelmed, desperately reaching out for the peace they find in themselves, only to have that grace denied them by a system that will not tolerate their humanity.

Bravely told, this story highlights how young men (and women) were literally removed from their homes and isolated. Their indoctrination was brutal, forcing the weaker recruits to crumble under the pressure and strain of constantly having to meet the ideal demanded of them. Many never made that ideal, and either died trying or were harshly evicted from the program to return to their homes broken and despised. In truth children were brutalised by a perverse regime, and made to become monsters for what was considered the "greater good".

Beautifully acted and told, "Before the Fall" resonates with a sadness that permeates the lives of both Freiderich and Albrecht. Young Max Reimelt (who plays Freiderich) and Tom Schilling (who plays Albrecht) are mesmerising, capturing the true perversity of innocence in such brutality. With strong supporting performances from the likes of Martin Goeres (Siegfried), one cannot help but become invested in the lives of these young men as they find their way through a system designed to destroy them. The end credits indicate that in the final days of the war, these young men were sent into battle ill prepared and grossly under armed. Of the 15 000 of them that fought, half did not survive.

If you are looking for a war movie, then this is not a movie you should consider. If however, you are looking to see the story beneath the war effort as experienced by young German men and women, then this is indeed the movie for you.

Sadly the story is not unique, and history seems destined to repeat itself in many jurisdictions across the world. A new form of nationalist indoctrination seems to be rearing its ugly head, and our youth are its cannon fodder. See Brotherhood [DVD]

Brilliant and deserving of its many accolades.
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on 17 August 2007
I had no expectations when it came to Napola and usually I don't write reviews, however after spending an afternoon watching this beautiful piece of cinema I can't help but suggest this film, it is one of the best films depicting the time of the German Reign and ideology.

A remarkable drama that at moments are certain to distress viewers which only adds to the brilliant story.

Without saying much more, if you like foreign films this is certainly to make an impact.
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on 15 April 2012
But for the somewhat misleading cover-art (it also appears on the menu background), this is an excellent production.
The movie deals with the trials and tribulations of a young German boy/man who is invited to attend the local Napola (National (Nazi) Political Institute of Education)
The movie held my attention all the way and was very "authentic" in feel!
It clearly demonstrated the mental and physical toughness that was expected of young German men of the Nazi era - where the strong survive and the weak must perish.
Anyone interested in WWII, and the Nazis in particular, would enjoy this movie!
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on 15 May 2011
This is a superb film - wonderful performances from the whole cast, especially Max Riemelt and Tom Schilling. Script, direction, lighting, camera-work, editing, sound effects and music are great. It's a spellbinding film of extraordinary emotional power and haunting in its beauty.

One of the things this film shows is why Nazism was so attractive to many young Germans. The Nazis knew how to target young people and play on youthful idealism. They used this idealism as a cover for their murderous agenda. They not only coerced people; they seduced them. The Director, Dennis Gansell, shows this seduction at work. He also comes at the Nazis from new angles and provides valuable insights into the German mind. It's interesting to compare his film with a TV documentary series on Nazi education on YouTube. It's called 'Hitler's Children.' Episode 2 - Education - deals with Napolas. It contains archive film from the 1930s and '40s and interviews with former cadets. There's also an excellent book called '"Hitler's Children" based on the TV series.

There are various DVD editions of Dennis Gansel's movie Napola - some with no features, others with interviews and documentaries. The American edition - this one called "Before the Fall" - contains an excellent 40-minute documentary about the making of the movie, plus a quirky 8-minute feature, the best trailer and some deleted scenes. But the US DVD lacks interviews with the cast that appear in the German edition. Also the US movie is cut down from the original format and the picture quality is less good than the German version. Shadows are blocked up and colours less vibrant, although it looks reasonable on DVD. The German edition contains the 40-minute documentary, the most deleted scenes, interviews with the cast, and a director's commentary which I desperately want to understand. Unfortunately everything is in German. I speak only English! There are no subtitles. The German edition also lacks the 8-minute feature and the trailer that appear on the US version.

Again a warning - some editions called "Napola" have no extra features at all - not even a trailer! The extra features add considerably to the enjoyment and understanding of this film.

Could I make a plea to Dennis Gansel to issue a two-disc special edition (with subtitles in various languages) bringing together all the interviews, features etc that are scattered across the various editions, plus any material that has appeared on appeared on TV. Also any other material he has about this remarkable film lurking in his archives. AND WE NEED THE MOVIE ON BLU-RAY PLEASE!

As a general point - many of Max Riemelt's films exist only in German editions. Few have subtitles. I think they would have a much wider audience if they did.

Incidentally, Max speaks good English. He has a delightful German accent, tinged with American sounds. He's made many films since Napola. Surely it's about time an American or British director discovered Max and put him in a movie. He could play a German character speaking in English. I'm sure he'd have a great impact.
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on 3 February 2012
This is a well made, human drama based upon the themes of the juxtaposition of childhood expectations against the reality of Nazism. It is well acted, well scripted and well shot. NOT expect any of the following things shows on the front cover; (1) planes, (2) British soldiers (3) American soldiers. Or any of the misleading possibilities of battlefield action...this is a human drama, not a war film in the traditional sense. Buy it expecting that and you won't be disappointed. Buy it as I did expecting some well made battlefield action, and you will.
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on 24 February 2007
Rivetting, thought-provoking, this film explores the nascent awareness of two friends in a Nazi elite school, being groomed for the SS. Through the events they live through and the sadism of the institution they begin to realise that the system they're a part od is inherently evil. Brilliant performances by Max Riemholt and Schilling as Friedrich and Albrecht. Very moving, emotionally intense, this film aka as "Napola" avoids the flaws of many German films. It is technically sophisticated and the story line doesn;t dwell on the obvious and things are understated and therefore all the more powerful. Do see.
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