Downfall (Der Untergang) proved the perfect foil to the Europe of the Diversities conference, referred to earlier by Johnathan Pearce. This is a controversial film that has excited some who argue that representations of the Nazis which humanise their actions, and detail their suffering, downplay the consequences of the regime. There is weight to this argument, as the film focuses fully on the people within Hitler’s bunker, their loyalty, their duty and their concerns in those final days.
Deftly underscored by Stephan Zacharias’s string-laden soundscape and cinematographer Rainer Klausmann’s truly terrific skill in capturing of the grim reality of the horror that was 1945 Berlin, Hirschbiegel pushes many buttons: the collective guilt of a nation for atrocities committed by their state balanced against the horrific human price of no surrender; the astonishing loyalty of the women around the cold-hearted dictator and the SS who vow to fight on because “we cannot outlive the Fuhrer’s death”; the double standard of being superior but cleansing themselves of traitors and the imperfect until there’s no leadership left to carry the torch.
Although Friedrich Hayek argued that totalitarian regimes allowed thugs and psychopaths to enter positions of authority, this film shows that traditional values of honour and duty were perverted and strengthened by the Nazis. In the film, it is Prussian values which sustain the dying regime, bring the Hitler Youth onto the streets and motivate the soldiers.
One should watch Shoah prior to this, as an inoculation, since one must make a conscious effort to recollect the camps in order to avoid feeling any empathy with these monsters.
UPDATE: For those who thought my link to a revisionist website was too obscure a warning signal that these memes still exist, here is an interview with Lanzmann, the director of Shoah, explaining the reasons why his work must exist.