Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Rommel (4 Stars)

This is a film based on the last seven months of the life of the German general Erwin Rommel, from March to October 1944. It isn't about his most famous years, in which he fought in North Africa, winning himself the title "Desert Fox". It's about the time he spent leading the German forces in France. This is a period in his life that I personally knew nothing about.

When Rommel was posted to France in March 1944 he was Germany's most popular general, both with the public and among his fellow soldiers. Despite losing the African campaign he was still considered by Hitler to be Germany's most successful general. An invasion of Anglo-American forces was expected in France, and Hitler considered Rommel the best man to defend France. He probably was the best man for the job. He quickly sized up the logistics of the French coast and requested 15 tank divisions. This would have meant withdrawing tanks from the eastern front, so Hitler only allocated him 3 tank divisions. Rommel knew that this wouldn't be enough to defend the coast, but he mounted defences as best as he could.

After the allied forces invaded on June 6th 1944 Rommel decided that France was lost and recommended that France should be abandoned. Hitler refused to accept this, and ordered that the Germans should fight to defend Cherbourg. The German forces were crushed, so Rommel recommended that Germany should negotiate surrender to the British on the western front. This too was rejected by Hitler as cowardice.

During this time conspirators allied with Claus von Stauffenberg approached Rommel and asked for his support. He refused to join them, saying that he would follow Hitler's orders as a faithful German, but he didn't report the conspirators. After the assassination attempt failed on July 20th 1944 Rommel was wrongly named as a conspirator, presumably because he had been named by other conspirators under torture. As a result he was offered the possibility to commit suicide and be declared a hero. The German press claimed that Rommel had died as a result of war wounds, and the truth about his suicide wasn't revealed until after the war.

Ulrich Tukur is an amazing actor who has played an assortment of characters from World War 2. Apart from playing Erwin Rommel in this film, he played the title role in "John Rabe", the reluctant SS hero Kurt Gerstein in "Amen", and the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in "Agent of Grace". Maybe I've rated this film too low. I'll decide when I watch it again.

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