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Hitler is humanized in new film

'The Downfall' is a nearly sympathetic and therefore controversial look at his final 12 days.

August 25, 2004|From Reuters

BERLIN — A startlingly convincing portrayal of Adolf Hitler in a new German movie about his last 12 days is causing controversy, with critics challenging its treatment of the "monster" as a human being.

"The Downfall" ("Der Untergang"), based on eyewitness accounts and on the book of that name by historian Joachim Fest, opens in German theaters next month and is one of the country's first attempts to characterize Hitler in a film.

Told from the point of view of Traudl Junge, one of Hitler's secretaries, the film marks a more relaxed approach to Germany's past, reflected in an increasing number of German-made feature films about the Nazi era.

Confined to his sparsely furnished, bare-walled bunker, Hitler orders nonexistent units into battle and declares the defeated German nation "has shown itself unworthy" of him.

Swiss actor Bruno Ganz achieves a photographic likeness with the stooped, gray, 56-year-old dictator plagued by Parkinson's disease.

Controversially, the portrayal of Hitler verges on the sympathetic at times, and the Holocaust is referred to only briefly in his tirades.

Producer Bernd Eichinger, who produced "The Name of the Rose," says a degree of empathy is unavoidable.

"If you want to understand history, you have to understand the people that make it," he told German ZDF television.

Der Spiegel magazine devoted its front page to the film this week and said Eichinger had managed what no one had before: "To give the absurd drama in the concrete grotto a real face."

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