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October, 2004 - Nr. 10


The Editor
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German School Starts
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"Anne Frank" Review
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Angry German Vote
"Lebkuchen" or Gingerbread
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Agentur für Deutsch


"Der Untergang" to compete for foreign language Oscar

  TWIG - An independent jury has chosen director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s controversial film "Der Untergang" (The Downfall) as the German entry into the competition for next year’s foreign language Academy Award. The film - an attempt to dramatically portray the last days of Adolf Hitler and his minions - breaks the long-held taboo of showing Hitler as a man instead of the embodiment of pure evil.

"The filmmakers successfully realized a haunting, demystifying film of the last days of Hitler and the Third Reich," the jury said in a statement which the group released last week. The explanation, however, did little to endear their choice to the historians and critics who have spoken out against what they see as the film’s sympathetic portrayal of the most notorious man of the 20th century.

This year has been filled with other German-language box office draws and critical successes that have left some critics wondering how the most contentious film of the year will represent Germany in the Oscar race. Films such as Soenke Wortmann’s "The Miracle of Bern," Fatih Akin’s "Head-On," Volker Schloendorff’s "The Ninth Day," and Marco Kreuzpainter’s "Summer Storm" had all be nominated for the honor, which nearly always leads to wider international distribution and higher profits, not to mention a larger place in film history.

"We were really happy that we could prevail against so many good films," said Thomas Friedl, a member of the Constantin film group that produced "Der Untergang." "Of course it’s important that the film will be seen in the United States parallel to the Oscar nominations," Friedl said, noting that negotiations with U.S. distributors were already underway.

The final selection for the five films to compete for foreign language Oscar will take place on January 25, 2005.

"Der Untergang" is already one of the most financially successful films of the year in Germany. During its first week of release, more than 750,000 people saw the film, and moviegoers’ interest seemed not to have waned going into the film’s third week in theaters.

The film stars the respected Swiss actor Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler, with Juliane Koehler as Hitler’s wife Eva Braun and Maria Lara as his secretary Traudl Junge. Corinna Harfouch and Ulrich Matthes play Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda.

After opening with the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944, the film jumps nine months into the future, following the dictator as he retreats to his bunker in Berlin and later takes his own life after marrying Eva Braun on April 30, 1945.

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel painstakingly reconstructed minute details of what is known about Hitler’s last days. Still, some experts feel that this reenactment of the bare facts don’t accurately reflect history. "The depiction of the Nazi regime as a personal story is not acceptable at all," said historian Hans Mommsen, one of the film’s main detractors.

Others, such as prominent literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, found the film an important contribution to younger Germans’ understanding of the time period. "The attraction of this film is to be able to look Hitler in the eyes. It comes from an understandable interest among the audience to understand," Reich-Ranicki said. The critic did, however, question the film for what he sees as its failure to capture what exactly so many millions of Germans found so fascinating about Hitler.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


Der Untergang


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