History is the study of past human affairs. This area of learning educates people about the significant events that shaped the world into its present state. Today, everyone can learn historical details either through watching films or reading historical books. In this paper, I would like to give an in-depth analysis regarding a historical film of my interest, ‘Der Untergang (Downfall)’ directed by Olivier Hirschbiegel. The film itself is an accurate portrayal of people’ lives during Hitler’s final ten day reign over Germany. Downfall also showed Hitler during his insanity and eventually defeat. It is a historical account of Hitler told from the viewpoint of his secretary and how the infamous authoritarian leader lost his battle during World War 2. The movie mayhem is filled with brutal scenes of soldiers committing suicide and endless chaos. Olivier Hirschbiegel spent his time documenting this film in order to match perfectly with the historical records. Adolf Hitler’s character was played by Swiss actor Bruno Ganz in a remarkable performance. Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler is the most impressive portrait of a man regarded by many as the exact ‘epitome of evil’ and not just parody of a deceased leader. It is a serious performance showing the decline of the most powerful political leader in Europe; starting from the last days of his reign up to the point of his insanity and his gentle side towards his mistress Eva Braun, and the women surrounding him. In addition, Downfall also tackles Hitler’s life on a different perspective, through the eyes of his secretary, Gertrude ‘Traudl’ Junge. The film was produced in the year 2004. The film started with a short biography about the life of Traudl Junge. According to her, though she feels the necessity to be angry at herself for being the secretary of Adolf Hitler, it is immensely hard to forgive, for what she did. The narrative began in the year 1942, when Junge and other young ladies arrived at Fuhrers headquarters in Rustenburg. The women are welcomed by Hitler’s valet Heinz Linge. After Hitler emerges and talks to the ladies, Junge was chosen as Hitler’s personal secretary. In the films short biography about Traudl Junge, she said that when she entered Hitler’s office at the age of 22, politics does not belong to her subject of interests. However, she also expressed deep regret on admiring a man more evil than a criminal. Based on Junge’s narration, Hitler was depicted as fatherly-like man. Perhaps it is due of her innocent nature that she was directly fooled by Hitler’s exterior personality, wherein fact, Hitler was not a caring person or leader at all. Historical accounts documented the serious injuries created by the Nazis towards the prisoned Jews deemed to be the most evil when he instigated human experiments on the patients (both children and women) without the use of anesthesia. Downfall is set entirely within a bunker that was located beneath the German capital of Berlin. A bunker is a military headquarters built beneath the city to protect people from surprise bombings. In this place, the famous dictatorial leader, together with his loyal generals and close friends spent their last days. On one particular scene, Hitler, screams like a madman on his loyal generals. He instructs them to move the troops to save Germany from Russian captivity. At that time, food and medicine were scarce, many soldiers died from the war; although there are soldiers who remained alive, some of them are weak while the others are not willing to return to the battlefield. The movie scenes venture out creatively to show the fall of the Nazi rule, and the cruelty of Hitler’s regime about his supreme race ideology. Hitler argues that there should be supreme races who ought to rule the world. The races who do not belong to the supreme class should be executed. This is where the Holocaust the tribulations of the ordinary citizens and the cremation of Hitler and Eva’s corpses.
The story then switched ahead to April 20th, 1945. During this time, Hitler was celebrating his birthday. Traudl Junge, who was sleeping in the bunker, was disturbed by the bombardment of the Soviet artillery from above (Speer 12). Hitler became furious and demanded to know the origin of the gunfire. It was then revealed that the Soviet Artillery Battery was located only twelve kilometers and according to the reports gathered, the bombs came from the Russians. Hitler who was caught off-guard became extremely furious towards his generals due to their unpreparedness. The film then jumps over on the evacuation of the Hitler’s quasi-military unit and a parallel story of Professor Ernst Gunter was introduced. Gunter refused to leave Berlin in order to treat the sick and wounded people. The remaining generals bid their final farewell to Hitler. Himmler, one of the generals tried to convince Hitler to leave the city; however, Hitler refused the request. The film showed the streets of Berlin, wherein the civilians try to leave the devastated city before was captured by Russians. The film then shows the labyrinth of the concrete corridors, which are highly lighted with the constant passages of black and forth of aides. The film also depicted how the world worked within the confinement of the bunker Power flowed from Hitler. Hitler was immensely evil, mad and ill (Speer 20). Even when he lost to the Russians, he continued living in his world of fantasy. He pounded maps, screamed ultimatums, and moved troops that were not present anymore. He depended on his own imaginary rescue teams. The fact that he was mentally disturbed did not prove a point to any of his acolytes. Joseph, Magda and Goebbels committed suicide. In one instance, Goebbels said that, she cannot let her six children suffer in a world that did not uphold the morals of socialism. As a result, she killed all her six children by giving them poison.
Downfall portrayed the moment of a suppressed history in Germany (Fullbrok 13). To a greater extent, the film accurately portrayed the political strife in Germany during 1945, to a larger degree; the movie truthfulness cannot be put in doubt. Showed in the film the historical accounts in the year 1945, when Hitler moved into the bunker, which was located fifty feet below the chancellery buildings (Kershaw 12). In an underground complex, Hitler held daily meetings with his few loyal generals, despite the threats that came from unstoppable Soviet advance. On April 22 of the same year, Hitler declared that the end was near, during a conference with some of his loyal military men. He married his longtime mistress, Eva Braun in a small wedding (Judd 23). Eva Braun became Hitler’s wife in less than forty hours. Together, she and Hitler committed suicide through cyanide poisoning. After their deaths, it was made clear to the public about her relationship to the dictator.
The portrayal of Hitler by Bruno Ganz exposes him as an extremely repellant human being. He was devoid of concern and misery that the citizens were going through. History records that, many people were killed during this period of German history, some suffering the brutalism of the Nazi regime. Under Hitler’s reign, the ideology of a supreme race caused the deaths of many Jews. Hitler regarded these races as a lower class people and, therefore, must be eliminated through genocide. Just like history, the film reflects the German tendency to see themselves as victims of Nazism rather than perpetrators. It is evident that, every major scene has been sourced from historical texts. For instance, the scene where Magda kills her six children is well documented in history texts (Speer 32).
In conclusion, Downfall is very accurate and, therefore, can be regarded as truthful. The movie portrays Hitler as being mean and psychotic. Not only the Hitler’s life, but the entire people, as well as the national stability, was being portrayed in the film. Images of suffering and hopelessness can be seen, and the faces of the abused and the damned are clearly portrayed. The decline of the Nazi party has been recorded by major historians, this was a time of great tribulation for the German citizens. Hitler’s actions are gravely immoral because he killed millions of innocent lives in order to fulfill his fantasy world. Many historians believed that the death of Adolf Hitler, it was like a nightmare that has been broken, and the world saw another hope for humanity. Extreme chaos and the destruction of physical and morals aspects of humanity are the evil acts that are forever connected with the name of one man, Adolf Hitler. Furthermore, the film represents the actual events that happened during the Nazi regime, through its excellent cinematography, many film critics dubbed it as the most excellent history in motion ever recorded..
Downfall. Dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel. 2004.
Fullbrok, Mary. A Concise History of Germany. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Judd, Alan. Dancing With Eva. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007.
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
Speer, Albert. Inside the third Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.