Der Untergang, Oliver Hirschbiegel (2004)

A long slog through the final days in Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. The movie manages to feel both hyperactive and gruelling, which seems right: Hitler, brilliantly played by everyone’s favorite Himmel über Berlin Bruno Ganz, oscillates between full-blown grandiose Nuremberg rages and sad beaten old man mutterings. A few characters in the bunker — the unctuous Goebbels and his Jim Jones of a wife, for example — come across as true believers; a few others — the cagey Speer above all — as cynical calculators. But most, including the housepainter himself, are fully three-dimensional without becoming anything close to sympathetic, which seems something of a miracle. It’s possible, for example, to be revolted by Himmler, or Eva Braun, and yet feel bad for them at the same time. I’m not sure how Hirschbiegel does that — some ungodly brew of smart writing and extremely skilled acting, I suppose.

Also starring the lovely Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara as Traudl Junge, Hitler’s ingenuous young secretary. She doesn’t do much here, but I like watching her stare doe-eyed into space, pretending that she’s experiencing tremendous internal turmoil. We’ll be seeing a lot of her in the American press later this year, I’m guessing, as Francis Ford Coppola gave her a big part in his forthcoming Youth Without Youth.

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