Blind Spots, Indeed

Hitler, what a bastard . . . who knew?

It'shardtoimagineGermanaudiencescoming out of Downfallgasping, "Hitler, what a bastard . . . who knew?" The movie, after all, is an integral part of Germany's long, tortured effort since the 1960s to come to grips with its ghastly past, and cinematic depictions of Hitler's last days reach as far back as G.W. Pabst's 1955 DerLetzterAkt,whose impact must have been far more dramatic for having been made during a near-total blackout in the German collective memory. Indeed, Hirschbiegel's doggedly detail-driven movie may end up adding to modern Germany's Holocaust fatigue. Lutz Hachmeister, director of a new documentary about Goebbels, recently announced that "For me as a historian, the Hitler subject is finished. Every aspect of Hitler has been shown." That's as may be, but Downfall,while not softening Hitler's character (his legendary good manners are firmly dismissed here as icing on a monstrous cake), suffers from crucial failures of nerve. There are the obligatory "good Nazis," two doctors, greatly cleaned up from their real-life counterparts, who serve as voices of humanism and protest. And whether or not Eva Braun really did muster enough empathy to urge Traudl Junge to flee the bunker, the movie's truly dippy ending has Junge charging heroically through the Russian ranks, her hand grasping that of a wised-up blond prettyboy from the Hitler Youth. Then we see the smiling pair cycling through a countryside bathed in warm sunlight.

Toward what—a better tomorrow? Not according to the real Junge, who, in a soundbite lifted from BlindSpot,tells her interlocutor that only after years of denial and depression did she face up to her failures of omission, while walking past a statue erected to the memory of Sophie Scholl, the young resistance fighter exactly her own age who was executed by the Nazis for leafleting against the Reich. BlindSpotthrew down a challenge to all Germans, to ask themselves what they would have done in Junge's place. Downfallgives us the facts, then tiptoes quietly away.?

DOWNFALL WAS DIRECTED BY OLIVER HIRSCHBIEGEL; WRITTEN BY BERND EICHINGER, BASED ON THE BOOKS INSIDE HITLER'S BUNKER BY JOACHIM FEST AND UNTIL THE FINAL HOUR BY TRAUDL JUNGE AND MELISSA MULLER; PRODUCED BY EICHINGER; AND STARS BRUNO GANZ. NOW PLAYING AT REGENCY LIDO, NEWPORT BEACH.

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