April, 1945. Germany stands on the brink of defeat. And their leader stands on the brink of insanity.
Downfall portrays the last days of Hitler. It's gritty, realistic, stunning, and appalling to watch. Even though the Russians surrounded Berlin, Hitler refused to surrender, and in his madness believed that his armies would somehow miraculously deliver them.
Hitler's inner circle is all here in the relative safety of his bunker - Goebbels, Speer, Eva Braun, and his generals. But it is his secretary that captures our attention. She is a fervent admirer of the Fuhrer and it is not until his suicide and her escape from the bunker that she begins to see the other side.
There are scenes that are extremely difficult to watch, made even more so because they really happened - Magda Goebbels poisoning her children because she didn't want them to grow up in a world without National Socialism; Hitler's mad insinuations that the German people were to blame for their fall; the Hitler Youth bravely defending the city when there was no more hope.
This film makes you think. It makes you see the ugliness of blind fanatacism. Unwavering loyalty. The willingness to die for a lost and horrific cause. The disregard for human life.
And it makes you ask, Why? Why did this happen? Why did a western European nation, one steeped in culture, take such a path?
This, then, is why we study history, why we continue to study the roots of World War II. We have the human need to understand this atrocity, to keep it from happening again. But have we learned from history? Are we living the old saying, "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it"?
It is something we must all consider.
But we must also consider the reasoning behind the making of this film - which, by the way, is not entirely historically accurate. For an in depth review, read this fascinating article by David Cesarani and Peter Longerich.