Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005


Filed under: random — alison @ 01:04

Yet another Tuesday night movie review.

Usually the Cinéma du Parc is relatively empty. Tonight it was full of old people.

Mark left the theatre with tears on his cheeks; I left unmoved but full of questions. My grasp of history is decidedly vague, and while I know the names of some of the major personalities I’ve never taken a modern history course of any description and have generally avoided war movies. So what I little I know about WWII is from sidebars in books and articles about other things.

Mark’s take: the movie was about the protestation of innocence, “Ich habe es nicht gewußt,” “I didn’t know.” What does that claim mean, when even Hitler’s personal secretary could make it – apparently believing herself? Mark is angry about Holland’s role in the war and particularly about the way the Netherlands like to portray themselves as good guys who helped Jews, when in fact they were as bad as Canada and refused to let Jews in. (No, no, those bits weren’t in the movie.) And he fully understands the German phenomenon of an older generation who say it wasn’t them, or who point out their own sufferings and demand to know who feels sorry for them? contrasted with a younger (our) generation fully prepared to take on the guilt and responsibility for all the horrors committed before they (we) were even conceived.

My first reaction was to wonder whether the war movies coming out these days that appear to have a certain resonance with current events is deliberate or my own projection.

Other musings: to the extent that the portrayal of the personalities was accurate, a point was made that you can’t really tell who’s on the wrong track by looking at them up close. You need to step back and take a broader look. For instance, Hitler was portrayed as a charismatic but lonely nutcase (looked like bipolar disorder to me, but so does a lot of stuff) who valued his friends. Which may have been true, but even so was not the most important thing about him. And this is how it makes sense that his secretary didn’t grasp what he was doing though Churchill did. (This I *think* was one of the points of the movie: I don’t think we were really supposed to feel sorry for him.) (But maybe we were? I did find that too many of the top brass were treated a little too sympathetically. Not that I expect all people who are a force for evil to be marked with large neon horns – but for someone supporting or actively waging war in a nationalist cause to appear uniformly kind and thoughtful seems just a little odd. Especially when you are not this person’s child but a cinema viewer with magic wall-fly powers.)

Anyway. Something I found quite delightful was libertarian-speak in the mouths of the Nazi generals. Ha! One quote I particularly enjoyed went something like this: “I have no compassion [for the young untrained German recruits who are being sent to fight against much greater numbers with no ammunition and who will die within hours or days in battles that the generals know perfectly well to be unwinnable]. They gave us the mandate to fight this war and now their little throats are being cut.” Among various speeches condemning weakness and promoting responsibility for consequences and protecting honour with guns.

I was also quite struck by the desperate busyness of the last days – issuing medals, hanging traitors – they knew they had lost so this was their last chance to take care of business before the Russians arrived – paralleling the stepped-up activity at the crematoria (not shown in the movie). It says something I recognise too well about human psychology that I should probably dwell on at length but frankly, I’d rather not.

Technically it was very well-acted and I think the sets were well done, but there wasn’t much else special about it. It was long and slow, paralleling the experience of Berliners waiting for the end. But that’s ok, not a reason not to go.

[originally transmtted by e-mail March 23, 2005]

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