Saturday, 7 July 2018

Alone in Berlin

This is the sadly true story of Otto and Anna Quangel and their activities during WWII in Berlin. They were toeing the party line, living an ordinary life under the Nazi regime, going to work, doing as they were told, actively being seen to be doing the expected thing, when news arrived of their son having been killed in action fighting for Germany in France.

The pair of them clearly sunk into depression and grieved strongly for their loss, privately blaming Hitler personally along with the Nazi party for taking him from them. Instigated by Otto, they start writing postcards making their views about the situation in Germany known to anyone who might read one. They secretly leave them around the city for people to find and read, as they know it would be dealt with harshly by the party if they were found out.

The 2016 film depicts an iron rule in the city under which even the local policeman, played by Daniel Brühl (who also popped up recently in The Zookeeper’s Wife), is subject to the whim of the cruel and powerful Nazi party. But results are expected, and results he must produce - or pay the price.

The two leads are played admirably by Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson (who worked together in amongst the Harry Potter films) as they portrayed the range of emotions demanded by their roles depicting the grief and sadness the couple felt.

As the film develops the story, we find out more and more about the activity of all sides in the process and the effect that their activity has, and the price that must be paid too, on and by those ordinary folk around them. It’s a slow-burner of a film, which Vincent Perez directs to reflect the unpleasant bomb-damaged city, the dour and unpredictable lives of those living there and the solemn existence they were enduring waiting for the end.

There’s an inevitability which creeps in as things move forward, reflected of course, by the historical events and record of what the couple achieved in their own way, getting back at Hitler for taking from them the only precious thing they had, which reflected any hope for the future.

A good film, but you have to be in the right mood. A bundle of laughs, it clearly ain’t. Be prepared for a harrowing view of human nature, values, cruelty and personal struggles.

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