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Based on the international best-seller by Hans Fallada, ALONE IN BERLIN shines the light on two ordinary German people who made an extraordinary impact.
Berlin, 1940. Working class couple Otto and Anna Quangel (Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson) receive the news that their only son has been killed on the battlefield. Already disillusioned with The Führer and The Fatherland, the loss of their son proves the tipping point and Otto begins a campaign of civil disobedience.
At the head of the Gestapo force trying to track down the dissenters is Escherich (Daniel Bruhl) who faces enormous pressure to find, stop, and bring the traitors to justice.
Starring Brendan Gleeson (who has had roles in such films as Braveheart, Gangs of New York, and the Harry Potter and Mission Impossible franchises) in the role of Otto Quangel, and his wife Anna is played by Emma Thompson (known from such films as Sense and Sensibility, Love Actually, and also had a role in the Harry Potter franchise), the main cast is capped off by Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Basterds, Rush, Bourne Ultimatum, and most recently Marvel's Captain America 3: Civil War) who is cast as Escherich, a Police Inspector. With such well established names, one would expect a rather thrilling drama.
Ultimately, this film is heartbreaking. Set in the centre of mid-World War II Germany, we have the story of a disenfranchised couple attempting to spark a revolution against the Nazi regime. The scenery and environment are beautifully created, with a yellowed tone that provides a period aura to the film, and gives that little bit more authenticity.
Emotion is something that was not so easy to come by in the film. Seesawing between apathy and a quiet sadness, there were very few visible or public examples of grief or anger. While it did help portray the effects of police brutality in Nazi Germany, and the notion that everyone is being watched (which was specifically mentioned several times throughout the film), it did stifle the film somewhat, and made it that little bit harder to empathise with the protagonists; who I knew I should want to succeed, but felt that they didn't really care about the results themselves.
Escherich was really the only source of movement in this incredibly slow game of cat and mouse. It was good to see some good detective work used in his quest to track the "Hobgoblins", but you couldn't help but think that there were some obvious plot holes and investigative points that he could have followed up that would have got a result sooner. His role was not engaging; while the Quangel's were dull, they gave the impression of parents who had lost purpose, and were unaffected by the potential negative consequences of their actions. Escherich was just too fresh-faced for this film. He looked like a boy with no experience who had no place in the position he was in.
The most engaging part of the film comes towards the end. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Otto is faced with a difficult decision that changes the direction of the film, and leaves the audience wondering what will happen. As 'Alone in Berlin' is based on a fictional novel, so whether they follow in the footsteps of Otto and Elise Hampel (their real-life counterparts) is constantly in the mind of the viewer. Event after event hits, with difficult decision after difficult decision to be made by the main cast, and despite some off screen implied consequences, the film provides the protagonist with a result even if it was posthumously.
Overall, I enjoyed it. It was much slower than a usual Hollywood-type film, and it helped build the tension without the need for over-exaggerated danger and action. Everything happens small, but it all had a meaning, and I feel I have learned something from the German point of view that isn't often talked about. Worth a watch.
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