is the fictionalized account of Hitler’s last days in the
bunker adapted from the memoirs of his secretary, Traudl Junge,
also the subject of a documentary, Blind Spot: Hitler’s
Secretary completed right before she passed away in 2002.
first meet Frau Junge as she and a gaggle of giggling young women
audition for the post of private secretary to the failing Fuhrer.
It strains credulity that this bunch in 1942 had no sense of foreboding
or that Frau Junge would type away for three more years without
suspecting something very wrong was happening, even as her Fuhrer
leads them all underground, safe from the gathering storm of the
Soviet army. Blind spot, indeed.
Lara’s Traudl, however, is believable as a wide-eyed innocent
who keeps the lid shut tight on her own doubts. In one scene we
watch that willful denial crack, though. After witnessing Hitler
unhinge and explode into a rant, she reaffirms her unwavering loyalty,
even as she forces back the vomit rising in her throat. Her unconscious
knows what’s going on even if she cannot, or will not, admit
it out loud.
the penultimate German New Wave actor, offers a fresh if awkward
portrayal of the end stage Fuhrer. His Hitler is Traudl’s
Hitler, a kindly uncle clucking Goebbels’ children under their
chins and complimenting the cook on her ravioli. Again we learn
of his devotion to his dogs; the audience chuckled appreciatively
as Eva voiced her longing to send the Aryan Super Dog to his maker
herself. The camera focuses on Hitler’s palsied left hand
and his shuffling gait, as if his disintegrating body might expose
something hidden or complex--yet Hitler was mad for all to see.
The real revelations
of the film are the assorted courtiers, especially the women. Besides
Lara’s Traudl, Juliane Kohler as Eva Braun excels as the inveterate
party girl who cheers up her companions underneath Berlin with magnums
of champagne and her own fatalistic courage. Corrina Harfouch as
Magda, Goebbels’ icy wife, who murders her own children because
they are “too good for a world without National Socialism,”
illuminates a little known character in the Nazi saga.
Late in the
movie, someone in the audience shouted, “You jerk!”
towards the screen. At first I didn’t know who he was yelling
at, then decided it must have been to Hitler, because “jerk”
describes exactly the Hitler of this film—a small man, a vulgarian,
who parlayed a few accidents of history and his own limited charisma
to ride to the top of a country a bit smaller than Montana. Easy
enough. His downfall began when a tremulous world decided to fight
back. His story and that of his pathological, greedy and stupid
hangers-on never rises to the level of tragedy, for their comfortable
suicides were far better than they deserved.
film was the first Hitler film made by German producers for German
audiences in that country’s continuing struggle to come to
terms with its past. Yet despite all the fascinating details of
life in the bunker, history is more than “one damn thing after
the other” and the film falls eventually flat. Perhaps the
obsession with accountability and wearying apologia has simply run
its course. Or perhaps we are ready to understand the Traudls who
enable the monsters. She and her “youthful followers”
were simply nice, middle class people who could not comprehend the
horrors beyond the hype and gaiety of Berlin. After all, isn’t
that how all World War II movies start, with the nice family saying
don’t worry, it can’t happen here?
Copyright Web del Sol, 2005