Monday, March 28, 2005

Random Thought #192

The Twilight Zone. That's some creepy shit.

***

If you get the chance to watch Downfall, catch Bruno Ganz's impassioned monologue decrying Himmler's betrayal. It was Shakespearean in its delivery - his fluctuating intonations carried the unassuming script by its throat. Witnessed between each Teutonic syllable was a venomous portrayal of a deeply troubled man behind the greying mustache.

Minutes into the film, I gave up comparing this on-screen interpretation to the one I learned to accept during years of high school hogwash. My eyes were completely fixated on the figure in front of me, taking him in at face value. For the first time, Hitler was portrayed as a demented old man suffering from the delusions of ultimate defeat. He acted almost grandfatherly, weak and soft-spoken, even as he presented his staff with cyanide pills at his farewell. (The running joke for me appeared to be the insistence on formalities - behavioral and material - even in savage times of total war.)

I read a handful of reviews criticizing the movie for not embarking on a WWII tour de force, placing those 10 days in the bunker within a grand(er) context. (When did moralists matter?) But the point wasn't that Hitler's last days hiding below Berlin had any major political implications (the Russians were coming, come hell or high water), but that his personality proved powerful even as his mind deteriorated. Like Das Boot, the film recognized that a mixture of claustrophobic conditions and despair bred coldness and warmth, characters both ideologically driven and sound, stubbornly paradoxical yet sane. Only the celluloid came with fewer dimensions.

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