Late-posted blog, adapted from a post to the gay geek site. I didn't blog about it at the time because I was still a little shell-shocked.
I saw Downfall last week with a friend. It's a very powerful, disturbing movie. Like any other historical movie, everybody knows the facts of the events, but seeing the way it plays out, and the little details, is where the fascination lies. Especially the fact that you know that many of the smallest details were personally witnessed by Traudl Junge, on whose accounts the movie is largely based. The shock of the movie often lies in the banalities, the practicalities of how things played out.
The movie has been accused of "humanising" Hitler, but neither of us thought it did. If anything, I thought Hitler was so demonic as to be unbelievable -- but then, much of what the third Reich did is unbelievable, yet is nevertheless historical fact.
My one criticism is that since the movie is based on the experiences of Traudl Junge and Ernst Gunther Schenck, a Professor-Doctor who was working in Berlin in the final hours, it tends to portray them in a quite positive light -- in fact, as many reviewers have pointed out, they are practically war-movie stereotypes: the courageous doctor and the secretary caught up in it all. But both were Nazis, and Schenck was a member of the SS, and has been implicated in war crimes including human experimentation in concentration camps.
However, had you not made an emotional connection with any of the characters, it would have been impossible to get into the story: it would just have been a documentary of evil people doing evil things. I think the director took a difficult decision to sacrifice some reality in favour of telling a compelling story, and given the value of the reality he did manage to convey about all the other events in the movie, and the much wider exposure it has received as a compelling movie than a dry documentary, the trade-off was worth it. The more people who know history, the less we are likely to repeat it. And the dead silence from the cinema audience at the end of the movie emphasized just how hard that message had been hit home.
Metacritic has scored this movie 82 out of 100, which makes it one of the top 200 movies of all time.