Sunday, May 16, 2010

Capsule Review: Downfall (2004)

Perhaps as famous for a (purposely) overdone Internet meme as for its actual content, Downfall is a painfully detailed chronicling of the final days of Adolf Hitler and his bunker compatriots . Eschewing visual tricks or flashy editing, the film relies almost entirely on the strength of its performances, particularly the monumental central performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler. But the supporting performances, particularly Alexandra Maria Lara as secretary Traudl Junge and the memorably pock-marked Ulrich Matthes as Joseph Goebbels - whose final moments with his family are chilling - prove to be equally memorable in their own way. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel resists the urge to demonize the men and women who populate the bunker, some of whom celebrate obliviously as the world around them crumbles, but the various delusions of grandeur and invincibility show just how removed from reality many of them had become.


Christopher Bussmann said...

Bruno Ganz gives one of the best performances in cinema history as Hitler. Utterly convincing. Utterly chilling. Right there with Klaus Kinsi's Aguirre as the best performance ever in a German film.

Doug Tilley said...

It's odd for me to think that there was a lot of concern about Hitler being "humanized" in this film upon its release. Humanizing him showed just how manic and deluded he had become, and Ganz is an expert at balancing those moments of tenderness with those scenes of Hitler becoming a raging demon.

Certainly the best portrayal of Hitler i've seen, and one that has unfortunately been watered down by those youtube clips.