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on 17 May 2015
No sub-titles and the language is German. However, you do get the gist of the story so it can be followed. The film tells the story of an enthusiastic teenager who is selected for training in a Nazi establishment designed to create the "New Man" for Nazi Germany. Think of the title as Na-Po-La weigh nothing to be confused with the Italian "Napoli". The harsh treatment meted out to these young people is graphic. Not for the squeamish. Well made and the young cast are very authentic.
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on 21 February 2015
Its in German, no English sub-titles so I missed most of the narrative.

But its very well produced - attention to detail, uniform, attitude, characters were excellent, and much of the second WW is known so not impossible to follow. The Hitler Youth movement is not well documented and there are very few films, but I would really have liked to see this even with English sub-titles.
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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 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 24 September 2011
This is a great movie. Pity there is no Blu-ray edition with English subtitles. How come Sweden issues this film in Blu-ray, but no-one else? The American DVD (called "Before the Fall") as two excellent documentaries about the making of the film, plus deleted scenes, a trailer etc. And the German edition has additional interviews, plus a commentary - in German! - by the director. When will the people who distribute this film get round to issuing a comprehensive Blu-ray edition incorporating all the material associated with this award-winning movie? And provide sub-titles in English and other languages! At the moment the film-makers are failing their worldwide audience. At the moment I can give only two stars to a film that deserves 5 stars.

UPDATE

Since I wrote this review I've emailed the director of this film Dennis Gansel. I told him how much I enjoyed the movie and asked whether there was any chance of a proper Blu-ray edition? This is his reply:-

'Dear Roger, thank you very much! We are working on that! Hopefully the distributor wants to make this step, next year. Best! Dennis.'

So let's keep out fingers crossed something will happen in 2012!
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on 3 September 2011
When Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Party took power in Germany in 1933, one of its very first actions was to set up a chain of political schools called National Political Institutes of Education or 'Nationalpolitische Lehranstalt' in German. These schools were introduced to train the next generation of Nazi leaders and were commonly known by their abbreviated name, Napola. Little known outside of Germany, political schools took only those who were deemed to be 'racially flawless' and of above-average intelligence. Entrance exams for those identified as potential pupils were extremely rigorous and those who passed were permitted to enter a so-called 'elite' world where they were systematically brainwashed in National Socialist ideology in an attempt to turn them into the kind of fanatical Nazis who would be willing to lay down their lives for Hitler and his regime. The fact that over 7,000 Napola pupils did fight to the death in the very last days of World War Two, long after the defeat of Germany became inevitable, would suggest that the schools achieved their objective.

Rising German star Max Reimelt is extremely well cast as Friedrich Weimar, a young working-class youth whose boxing skills win him the offer of a place at a Napola which he accepts in defiance of the wishes of his anti-Nazi father. Reimelt, who looks every bit the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan, is an accomplished actor and despite [or perhaps because of] being only 19 years old when he made this film he plays the role of the tough, determined but essentially naive Freidrich very well. The film tells a moving and ultimately tragic tale of friendship and loss set against the brutal and cruel background of the Napola. The story is well told, beautifully filmed and very well acted by the young stars - especially the emotionally charged scenes where, as one other reviewer puts it, "the cast act their socks off".

This is one of the best coming-of-age dramas I've seen and shows modern German cinema at its best. In German with English subtitles and only just released in the UK on DVD many years after its Continental release, it's well worth watching. Superb.
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on 27 May 2011
This film is also available in an American edition called "Before the Fall" which contains many interesting extra features. The edition featured here - "Napola" - contains just the movie and nothing else! So to business...

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 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 and similar to the version featured on this page. The German edition looks superb and prints the movie in its original wide-screen format. 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 28 July 2012
No english version , no english subtitle, the movie is only with a german version;
appart that , good movies, good actor , historic contexct is very well respected.
Philippe from Paris
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on 27 January 2014
The movie tells the story of a teenager who is selected to attend an elite school in Nazi Germany, where future leaders are trained. At first flattered by the attention, and impresssed by the egalitarian nature of the school, he nonetheless becomes quickly disillusioned with the methods of the Nazis. When his friend commits suicide after being forced to take part in murder, the boy registers his opposition and is expelled. A very dark, and yet enlightening movie.
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