Downfall (2004)


Based on historical sources and eye-witness accounts, "Downfall" tells the story of the final days of the National Socialist in 1945. The film takes place in Berlin, with the majority of scenes playing out in Hitler's bunker, nicknamed the "Wolf's Lair". As the Russians advance into the city, the situation grows increasingly desperate, as the high-command of the German army attempt to explain to their leader the need for a surrender. Hitler is portrayed as a man who has lost his grip on reality. Only a few years earlier being in charge of a vast swathe of Europe and seemingly unimpeded in his desire to see a powerful German Empire re-established, he is now reduced to cowering in his bunker awaiting his fate. Between the scenes of heated conversations between officials, members of the SS, and several high profile figures, we see the devastation that the war has brought to Germany's doorstep, with the once proud city bombed to rubble and people fleeing in fear as Stalin's forces approach.

"Downfall" does a great job of documenting what might have happened during Hitler's last days and shows us this quasi-mythical figure as a rather ordinary, albeit disturbed, individual who somehow found himself in charge of a country and an army. Aside from a few references here and there it largely stays away from the politics of his administration, something which is covered in details in many other films, and instead attempts to give a portrayal of the real people and what they were thinking and doing during the fall of their government. It is a long film and will not be everyone's cup-of-tea, there are no heroic last stands or rousing speeches, but rather a drawn-out defeat told from the perspective of the losing side. It is interesting to see how the dedication and loyalty amongst Hitler's advisors causes an internal conflict as they can see him becoming increasingly irate and unreasonable. Particularly poignant is the fate of Goebbels' children which serves as a tragic microcosm of the cost of war to the German people, in particularly large numbers of blameless individuals.


Definitely worth a watch if you are interested in these historical figures and the best and most detailed telling of this particular period. The film is also very well made, with the scenes of battle being realistic, great script and acting really holding your attention. Despite many people knowing how things will end, the film still manages to remain engaging as there is a sense of tension pervading everything made worse by the claustrophobia of people being trapped together in the confines of the bunker.

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