Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Alone in Berlin (4½ Stars)

Otto and Anna Quangel are a middle-aged couple who live in Berlin in 1940. They both support Adolf Hitler, not because of any political convictions, but because they're patriotic Germans. Otto is the shift leader in a factory that makes coffins. Anna belongs to a women's group that visits unemployed women to encourage them to find work that's useful for the war effort, such as manufacturing weapons. They're both good Germans, in their own way.

One day the news comes that their son, their only child, was killed during the invasion of France. This makes them question whether their loyalty to Hitler is misplaced. Otto begins to write messages on postcards criticising Hitler and drops them in public places throughout the city. Most of the postcards are handed in to the authorities, so the young police inspector Escherich is assigned to find the person who wrote them.

The film is based on the lives of Otto and Elise Hempel, about whom a novel was written in 1947, entitled "Everyone dies alone". The novel was filmed twice in Germany, in 1962 and 1975, as well as two television mini-series about their lives being made in 1970 and 2004. The novel was finally translated into English in 2009, which has led to this English language film. Something about the story fascinates people. It shows how a simple person was able to resist Hitler in his own small way.

This is a magnificent film with powerful acting by the lead characters. Brendan Gleeson is quiet, almost stoic in his resistance, expecting to be captured and executed as a traitor at any time, but having no fear of death. Emma Thompson is emotional, afraid that her husband will lose his life. For me personally the most intense person in the film is Daniel Brühl as Inspector Eschinger. He isn't a Nazi, but he takes his job as a policeman seriously. His motivation is to catch criminals, and whoever is writing the postcards is guilty of inciting disorder. His job is made more difficult by the Gestapo, who want to turn it into a political case.

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