Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two Films about Germany and WW2

Over the last week, I've been to see a couple of quite different films, both set in Germany, and both giving sympathetic portrayals of at least some of the Germans during WW2.

The Reader

The Reader is about a teenage boy who falls in love with an older woman, who has quite a few secrets. I won't say much more, because I think one of them was meant to be a twist, though I thought it was pretty obvious from the start. The woman is played by Kate Winslet, in her usual role of woman who can't keep her top on for more than 5 minutes. What is it with Kate Winslet and getting her top off? There's a kind of moral that it's better when we don't keep things secret and actually learn to talk about stuff, but that just seemed cheesy. Overall, I thought the film was fairly good, but pretty relentlessly depressing.

Valkyrie

That can't be said about the other film - Valkyrie, even though pretty much all of the good characters die at the end (well, it's a historical film about the failed von Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler - what do you expect?).

With one major exception, it's really really well made and done. I hadn't realised that von Stauffenberg did it largely because of his Christian faith - there's a great bit early on where he argues that his citizenship in heaven (or possibly in the "Sacred Germany" - Germany as a Christian region, which it had been for so long before the Nazis) trumps his loyalty to his country. His final words are "Long live our Sacred Germany." Except that whole idea is toned down a bit so that people who wouldn't recognise the allusion probably wouldn't get the point. Nor had I realised quite how close they got to succeeding...

The one exception was Tom Cruise, who managed to act as von Stauffenberg using only one single expression through the whole film - a kind of intense, efficient, ruthlessness, with very little warmth.

But having said that, it's still a great film, and one which I'm glad I watched.

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