37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Recreating the downfall of a monstrous fantasy,
This review is from: Downfall (2 Disc Edition) [DVD]  (DVD)
Largely based on the account of Trudl Junge who, aged 22, became Hitler's secretary in 1943, "Downfall" portrays the last few days of the Nazi regime, now confined within the claustrophobia of the Berlin Bunker. The film opens with a brief interview of Frau Junge, an old woman accepting guilt for her part in the tyranny.
And then it's back to her first meeting with Hitler - an impressionable young woman, swept off her feet by an opportunity to be close to the ultimate celebrity. And then another jump through time to the Bunker and the last days, with the Red Army sweeping into Berlin.
It's a very physical performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler; he makes the Fuhrer physically insignificant, a little man with big ideas and flamboyant but volatile emotions. Ganz's gestures, his body language, his passion, his histrionics are utterly convincing. It is a compelling piece of acting - Ganz describes (in an interview on the DVD extras) how he had to suspend his own hatred of Hitler in order to play the man. The aim was realism, accuracy, not caricature or parody. It's an astonishing performance.
Around Hitler, the fanatics cling to fantasy, believing to the end that some miracle will happen, that they will be proved right, that somehow the Fuhrer will conjure up … what? Yet others are already plotting to abandon the sunken ship, to try to save themselves. This is not the downfall of Adolf Hitler, it is the utter collapse of a regime and its ideology. All that is left is fantasy, and recrimination. Ultimately, they blame the German people for having failed them. While the monstrous fantasy persists within the Bunker, above, on the streets of Berlin and across the German countryside, there is death, destruction, and a harvest of horror being reaped.
Within the Bunker are mortal creatures who once held the power of life or death over a continent but who are now reduced to fragile psyches searching for escape, for excuses, for some tangible ray of hope. As their world implodes, fanaticism vies with panic, the instrumentalism of survival, the obligations of duty, even individual heroism.
Superb performances are almost routine in this film, but Corinna Harfouch as Frau Goebbels provides one of the most memorable, demanding, and chilling screen presences I've ever seen. She portrays an empty husk of a woman inhabited by blind devotion and belief. Again, in interview, she explains just how much this role took out of her.
You are left with an impression of Hitler's ability to beguile. The functionaries are blindly obedient. The soldiers follow their duty. The women idealise him - Eva Braun is passionately in love, Alexandra Maria Lara plays the confused innocence of Traudl Junge, and Frau Goebbels is obsessed by an almost psychotic idealism and reverence for her Fuhrer. The claustrophobia of the Bunker is echoed in the moral and intellectual straitjacket of the Nazi regime's remnants.
The film delivers a convincing authenticity. It is disturbing, frightening, horrifying. And the DVD extras underpin its quality. The discussion of the morality of making the film, the angst which clearly gripped many of the actors, the determination to deliver a valid account, free of sensationalism, special effects, hype, glitz or gloss - all this becomes clear in the interviews and commentaries available on the second disc. An astonishing, important, and absolutely compulsive piece of viewing which will leave you moved, even shaken. Absolutely first class.