Alone in Berlin

Film Reviews

Bhagawati reviews a gripping and haunting movie that shows much to reflect on.

Alone in BerlinNot another WW2 movie! – was my first thought when I looked at the DVD cover. But then my eyes fell on the name Hans Fallada, a prolific German writer on whose book the script is based: Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Every Man Dies Alone), published a few weeks after Fallada’s death in 1947. It is an anti-fascist novel based on the true story of a German couple, Otto and Elise Hampel (in the movie called Otto and Anna Quangel), who were executed for producing and distributing anti-Nazi material in Berlin during the war. That spiked my interest and I was not disappointed.

The backdrop is Berlin between 1940 to 1943; it is the beginning of the long war with the Nazi regime in full force while the first German soldiers are killed in battle, one of them being the Quangel’s only son.

Without displaying too many outer emotions, Anna – brilliantly depicted by Emma Thompson – suffers quietly and alone while Otto – an admirably stoic Brendan Gleeson – barely comments on his son’s demise. But it is obvious that his untimely death hit both in their deepest core.

Otto secretly starts writing cards with anti-Nazi slogans and places them one by one all over Berlin, in a random pattern, thus voicing his rebellion against the regime. When Anna finds out she insists on helping him with this perilous action and their relationship, which seemed to have been stagnant since a long time, becomes intimate and loving again through the precarious steps they both take.

Another important role in the drama is police inspector Escherich (great performance by Daniel Brühl) who is forced by the Gestapo to find the person responsible for the anti-Nazi postcards and proves to have a conscience in spite of being sharply bullied by the Gestapo.

The movie is about truth and courage – standing to one’s own truth no matter the dangers one faces. As Otto says to Anna in a poignant scene, “We are free… we don’t need to be afraid.”

Recommended viewing with much to reflect on.

BhagawatiBhagawati is a regular contributor

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