Review: Downfall (2004)

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Downfall, the story of Hitler’s last days in the bunker as Berlin crumbled all around, features a powerhouse performance by Bruno Ganz. The film is an incredible recreation of a time and place, an excellent example of riveting docudrama. Told through the eyes of Hitler’s secretary (who’s also the subject of the well received documentary Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary), Downfall is as fascinating a World War II drama as it is a character study.

I’d wager that if Downfall had been an American production and in English it would have garnered the wider audience it deserved, as well as many more Oscar nominations and most deservedly a Best Actor prize for Ganz, who gives one of the finest acting performances of the year. But by that same token, fellow foreign film nominee (and winner) The Sea Inside, would have scooped up all the Oscars, because we all know that Academy voters are suckers for handicapped/physically challenged/mentally impaired “true stories.”

I digress. My point here is Downfall is a film to be seen. A friend of mine was so blown away by the production and performances that he saw the film three times. While I don’t think I could stand that intense a repeat viewing, I know what he means. Where Saving Private Ryan was an amazing, transporting experience, most notably the D-Day assault on Omaha beach, so is Downfall the same sort of powerful cinematic event. [*****]

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