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Downfall

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(2004) ★★★★★

BBC4: Thursday 30 April, 10pm

April 1945: The Russians are firing upon Berlin. The Nazi heirarchy wants Hitler to evacuate the city. Himmler wants to negotiate a treaty with Eisenhower. Hitler stays put in his bunker with Eva Braun and Blondi. The Fuhrer is not only losing the war, he’s losing the plot. The generals are defeated realists dealing with a madman. Children are manning the artillery on the city’s ruined streets. Eva Braun is dancing on the tables as the room rocks to Russian shellfire. The music might as well be whatever Nero played on his fiddle. This fascinating insight into the pitiless chaos of Berlin’s downfall is based on the book Inside Hitler’s Bunker and on the memoirs of Hitler’s secretary. Bruno Ganz is mesmerising as Hitler. His left hand flailing with palsy, he turns on his devoted staff, his soldiers, the entire German nation, in a remarkable tirade of delusional paranoid blame-laying. Too late, the generals realise the lunatic has taken charge of the bunker. A shame they could not have divined his dementia sooner – after all, it’s not as if he ever made a secret of his insane notions. Director Olivier Hirschbiegel’s own downfall came with the 2013 biopic Diana. Going from global catastrophe to gossip, the man who humbled Hitler was brought to his knees by the princess of Wales.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 150min