East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Downfall: So self-conscious

When Downfall turns into another WW2 survival drama, a la The Pianist, it's not so much offensive as lame. The movie is of interest, however, for stunning performances in impossible roles. Bruno Ganz's Hitler is grandly pissy, one moment verbally battering his generals; the next gently buttering whatever women he can find. Alexandra Maria Lara plays one of those secretaries, Traudl Junge (the star of the recent doc Blind Spot) - it's her POV that's taken most often, and though she's fine, she doesn't have the richness or insight needed to really elevate this movie.

Richness is provided by Juliane Kohler's Eva Braun, stark raving but just short of mad in her determination to party on while Berlin burns, trying to overwrite not only her insecurity but the Reich's. Insight comes from Heino Ferch's Albert Speer, architecture's equivalent of Leni Riefenstahl (the vital difference being that he used slave labor,) rueful if not exactly apologetic. And also excellent are Ulrich Matthes and Corinna Harfouch as Mr. and Mrs. Goebbels, and Christian Berkel as an S.S. doctor who's the one unambiguously lionized character. Despite the efforts of all of these performers, the movie still feels like a collection of minutia that relies too much on the violence of history for its significance.


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