Here we are, the last Blind Spot of 2015! Downfall was the perfect film to end what has been a great year of foreign film. I was expecting to finish on The Skin I Live In (2011) but that ended up being October’s Blind Spot when I had DVD breakage issues with Downfall. Now I’m not even bothered that I had to buy it twice.
Downfall is a German film that follows the Nazi party and Hitler at their ‘downfall’. Or, the last vital hours at the end of WWII and when the Soviets took over Berlin. It follows many members of the Nazi Party and various generals and important Nazi people. As well as Hitler’s wife Eva Braun and particular focus on Hitler’s young secretary.
What I liked most about Downfall was that, had all the actors not been speaking German, I would mistake this film for something Hollywood would make. The production values were fantastic. The authenticity was on par with what I’ve seen recently in Bridge of Spies (2015) and Eva Braun could have easily been an ageing Hollywood movie star the way she clung onto Hitler and spoke to his young secretary. Not to mention the film was much more popular and well known than I had first considered. The main difference was that this wasn’t a Hollywood comment on the Nazi Party with an American bias. This was Germany. Taking ownership of their own dark past like no country I’ve ever seen before. Telling their own story.
I’ve always admired Germany as a country for their stellar economy, for their liberalism and traditionalism, but also for their ownership. They don’t have to take ownership of what generations before them have done. But as a country, they’ve said ‘this was horrific, and we will honour all of the lives lost. And do everything to educate our people and stop something like that ever happening again.’ Other countries could certainly take a leaf out of their book.
This movie completely encompasses that for me and more. The narrative unfolds steadily and simply, heightening the believability further – this is story that doesn’t need added drama. These people died in the way you see it. Everything else is embellishment, but the events are real. There’s no denying that the reason this film packs the punch it does because of the weight of history behind it. Whenever films are biopics, or war films based on real wars (I’m talking about the Saving Private Ryan (1998) type movies of the world), I always think about whether or not the film would be the same if it were based on a completely fictional event. Of course, it never does. Even Full Metal Jacket (1987) wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t set about ‘Nam. The history is important.
I don’t want to come off like a complete imbecile and pretend for one second that fictional films (even documentaries) don’t take huge creative license (as they rightfully should) with these events. But I think they can be important in helping to create a feeling. The feeling when some of the Nazi party killed themselves with a hint of indifference about doing so. When Hitler’s stubbornness would always lead to more death and unnecessary death. And just when you think enough is enough, it simply keeps going. I always tell people I don’t really tend to like war films. I don’t think I’ll be making such a blasé comment any more.
Stay tuned for Thursday when I’ll be announcing what’s on my 2016 Blind Spot! Have you ever seen Downfall?