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· 156 minutes
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Written by Bernd Eichinger, Joachim Fest, Traudl Junge, Melissa Müller
· Bruno Ganz
· Alexandra Maria Lara
· Corinna Harfouch
· Ulrich Matthes
· Juliane Köhler
The film deals with not only Hitler's final days, but the final days of the entire Reich. As Hitler's dominance over the nation begins to crumble, so does his support. Thus throughout the film, each major character begins to have their own thoughts and feelings about the best course of action for Germany; oftentimes, these beliefs are radically different than that of Hitler which leads to conflict. This is one of the film's most fascinating and intriguing aspects as the audience can literally see an entire sect unravel at the seams. It is incredibly provoking and incredibly potent.
Downfall's scope leads to the true downfall of the film. From the middle to the film's denouement, the 156 minutes are felt. As the film fades to black and each of the characters inserted in the film is flashed upon the screen with a brief "what happened to them" postscript, the audience begins to realize how deep the director took us. The film literally chronicles (whether briefly or completely) each character who steps foot into the bunker. Some we know, some we don't, and some the director chooses to simply assume we know so the audience is inserted midway into their development. Not only is this frustrating, but it brings down the film's pacing; at times the 156 minutes seem to crawl on.
Each of the performances are fantastic as every player truly embodied their roles. Bruno Ganz has some big feet to fill; how do you portray a legendary avatar of evil? Ganz puts forth an unbridled effort to truly become another person. Not only does he have a truly eerie resemblance to Hitler, but his performance sets him over the top. I have never seen Hitler portrayed so genuinely. This is a powerful, terrifying performance, and one that will linger with the viewer for weeks after seeing the film.
The script is also sound, providing sufficient development for most characters, but falters mainly in its grandiose ambition. There is simply too much here; too many characters are brought into the picture and film becomes convoluted. Setting them straight is very tough, and some are far more interesting than others. The film provides a glance at the Reich which few films have ever provided. The men and women portrayed are not just vicious, nihilistic, caricatures of hatred; they all have feelings and depth that the history books would lead us to forget about. This film does not.