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Downfall (2004)—GermanDownfall (2004)—German

           Nominated for best foreign film in 2004, Downfall recreates Hitler's final days in his underground Berlin bunker. The film opens with a real life clip from Traudl Junge, age 81, whom Hitler hired as his secretary when she was only 22. Junge wrote a memoir about her experiences, and sat for a lengthy interview-turned-movie called Blindspot (2002), both of which served as material for Downfall. Struggling to forgive herself, Junge remarks, "I never thought that fate would take me somewhere I'd never really wanted to be." But contrary to Hitler's insistence that she and others flee Berlin as the Russians invaded, Junge stayed to the bitter end. Delusional, paranoid, and mercilessly disdainful of the German citizenry who suffered the carnage of his megalomania, it is chilling to watch Hitler and his volcanic rage as the end approaches. He screams about betrayal, and strategizes with battalions that no longer exist. At 155 minutes, this is a long film, but even though we know the outcome before we begin, the film maintains its dramatic tension. Strong portrayals of Eva Braun, who married Hitler in the bunker a few days before they both committed suicide, Himmler and Goebbels enrich the plot. Magda Goebbels murdered her six kids with cyanide pills rather than have them live in a world without Nazi Socialism. Downfall reminded me of the idiocy and horror of war, its catastrophic human toll, and the consequences of leaders who are blinded by ideology, surrounded by sycophants, and deaf to genuine criticism. In German with English subtitles.

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