copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

You must have heard the synopsis already: The movie takes place during the last few days of the fall of Berlin and concentrates on the people in and around the Hitler's bunker.

This is not the most exciting premise, but the setting is no doubt a small treasure chest for drama. Do the makers dig into that treasure chest? Yes, they do.

The cast, consisting mostly of actors not well known outside of Germany, does an excellent job with the roles, especially Bruno Ganz as Hitler.

Hitler switches between hope, delusion, anger and despair as his staff hopelessly tries to find some clarity and a future in the man who clearly can no longer be of any use to them.

The suffering outside the bunker and the ever encroaching action of war are faded into the background to give more attention to the relationship between the largely isolated people inside, who are trying to cling to the system that is no longer there or come to terms with the truth that is upon them.

The humanity that these German actors have been able to give to their characters is palpable in each gaze, word and grimace and it is understandable why this movie got so much criticism. Instead of portraying the situation in the Anglo-American politically correct terms and separating the good guys from the bad guys, the makers have instead portrayed everyone as real humans (which I noticed is common in German films). They even ensured a good physical resemblance of the people being portrayed. This is refreshingly sober and reminds of Stalingrad (directed by Joseph Vilsmaier) - another good German war drama. Der Untergang feels like the most realistic portrayal of the situation in question.

Unfortunately, I can't say I will remember much about this movie beyond a few of its characters. For many people this will be enough, but for this reviewer the experience of being stuck in a room with a bunch of officers who for several days cannot make up their mind on what to do is...a little pointless.