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Downfall (2004, Bruno Ganz, Juliane Köhler)



Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Oscar-nominated film is set in Hitler’s Berlin bunker in the dying days of the war. As the Allied troops, led by the Russians, encircle the city and begin to close in, Hitler (Bruno Ganz) and his remaining commanders gather in the claustrophobic command centre as the dictator orders non-existent troops to counter-attack, send ill-equipped children and their grandfathers into battle and rails against his generals for their failures. Meanwhile, Eva Braun (Juliane Kohler) leads the drunken debauchery as those that know the war is over drink themselves into oblivion, and Goebbels and his wife Magda (Ulrich Matthes and Corinna Harfouch) poison their children rather than see them live on where National Socialism is dead.

The theme has been visited before, most notably in The Bunker , with Anthony Hopkins in the starring role, but this is the first film to address the topic from the loser’s viewpoint and is all the more powerful. Ganz (ironically Swiss) is Hitler rather than an actor playing Hitler – his capture of the man’s mannerisms is uncanny as is his portrayal of the dictator’s Parkinson’s disease but it is the depiction of a man in the throes of self-deluding madness that is the most powerful.

The film’s exteriors in a shattered Berlin where society is breaking down and summary execution is the order of the day add to the power of the film (in another irony, these scenes were shot in St Petersburg, the Russian city named Leningrad during the war, which suffered appallingly at the hands of the Nazis). In Germany, the film was seen by 4.6m people, with audiences sitting in stunned silence at Ganz’s portrayal of the most evil man in history.

production details
Germany – Italy | 156 minutes | 2004

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Writer: Bernd Eichinger, based on Joachim C Fest and Traudl Junge and Melissa Muller’s books

Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler
Alexandra Maria Lara as Traudl Junge
Corinna Harfouch as Magda Goebbels
Ulrich Matthes as Joseph Goebbels
Juliane Köhler as Eva Braun
Thomas Kretschmann as SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein
Veit Stübner as Obergruppenführer Tellermann
Götz Otto as SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Günsche
Karl Kranzkowski as Wilhelm Kranz
Michael Kind as SA-Mann / Ruinenkeller
Heino Ferch as Albert Speer
Christian Berkel as Prof. Dr. Ernst-Günter Schenck
Ulrich Noethen as Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler
Birgit Minichmayr as Gerda Christian
Rolf Kanies as General der Infanterie Hans Krebs
Justus von Dohnányi as General der Infanterie Wilhelm Burgdorf
Michael Mendl as General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling
André Hennicke as SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke
Christian Redl as Generaloberst Alfred Jodl
Thomas Limpinsel as Kammerdiener Heinz Linge
Thomas Thieme as Martin Bormann
Donevan Gunia as Peter Kranz
Matthias Habich as Prof. Dr. Werner Haase
Alexander Held as Walter Hewel
Devid Striesow as Feldwebel Tornow
Dieter Mann as Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel
Bettina Redlich as Frl. Constanze Manziarly
Heinrich Schmieder as Rochus Misch
Anna Thalbach as Hanna Reitsch
Dietrich Hollinderbäumer as Ritter Robert von Greim
Ulrike Krumbiegel as Dorothee Kranz
Thorsten Krohn as Dr. Stumpfegger
Jürgen Tonkel as Erich Kempka
Fabian Busch as Obersturmbannführer Stehr
Christian Hoening as Reichsarzt SS Grawitz
Dirk Borchardt as Panzerkommandant
Elizaveta Boyarskaya as Schwester Erna
Michael Brandner as H. Fritzche
Igor Bubenchikov as Schadle
Martin Butzke as SS-Soldat 1
Dmitriy Bykovskiy-Romashov as Soldat 2
Mathias Gnädinger as Hermann Göring
Bohdan Graczyk as Oberst Clausen
Norbert Heckner as Standesbeamter Wagner
Enno Hesse as Oberleutnant
Julia Jentsch as Hanna Potrowski
Elisabeth von Koch as Margarete Lorenz
Konstantin Lukashov as Älterer Soldat
Stefan Mehren as Verwundeter Soldat
Katerina Poladjan as Russische Arzthelferin
Tanja Schleiff as Russische Ärztin
Christian Schmidt as SS-Mann Greifkommando
August Schmölzer as Baur
Jurij Schrader as Dolmetscher
Maria Semenova as Rothaarige Frau
Igor Sergeev as Russischer Soldat
Klaus-Jürgen Steinmann as Offizier 1
Oliver Stritzel as Maschinist Hentschel
Vsevolod Tsurilo as Russischer Adjutant
Henning Peker as Wachsoldat vor der Wolfsschanze (uncredited)
Dieter Rupp as Mohnke’s Adjutant im Bunker (uncredited)