Friday, January 21, 2022

Test Upload - Downfall Review

Sunday evening at 18:31 The Phnom Penh Film Club takes on Oliver Hirschbiegel’s weighty and divisive docu-drama *Downfall* (2004), starring Bruno Ganz as Adolph Hitler, careening through the waning days of the Second World War from the relative safety and near-total isolation of his bunker. 
By no small margin this is easily the most controversial picture we’ve considered since the group’s inception. Among many other deep and abiding objections voiced against this movie from the highest reaches of critical discourse, particularly strident umbrage has been taken with the notion of a “humanized” Hitler, specifically in the bitter throes of realizing that the war—and with it, his own survivability—are at an end. Comparatively “sympathetic” portrayals of the lower echelon of Hitler’s circle, and the moral complexity of basing the movie on the first-hand accounts of Hitler’s loyal surviving aides, have also been sharply and repeatedly upbraided in at least some circles of film criticism. During production the film set was repeatedly “visited” by Russian media, prompting more than one heated exchange and at least one incident of forced removal by security.     
Despite the incendiary divisiveness (or perhaps in part because of it) the film’s release and distribution were met with widespread commercial and critical acclaim. It was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 77th Academy Awards, and has been lauded for its arresting depiction of the fall of the Third Reich by even some of the most stridently opposed historians and critics. Writing for The Guardian, acclaimed Hitler biographer Sir Ian Kershaw said the film had enormous emotive power, and went out of his way to question how anyone could view the coldly monstrous behaviour of Hitler and his inner circle in those last few days and find them at all sympathetic. “In real life,” said Director Hirschbiegel in 2015, “monsters do not walk around with claws for hands. Intelligent adults know that evil often comes packaged with a smile across its face.”
I hope everyone will plan to join us for this provocative, deeply challenging and discussion-worthy picture. Ganz’ performance alone is worth the effort—by far cinema’s best-ever portrayal of the most famous madman in history, a task too tall for all but the finest and most self-comfortable of acting talents. I can promise an unusually lively discussion when the credits for this one are finished with their roll. 

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