Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Before the Fall |
Actors: Max Riemelt, Tom Schilling, Devid Striesow, Jonas Jägermeyr, Leon A. Kersten
Director: Dennis Gansel
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Berlin 1942. Friedrich is a 16 year old who dreams of doing something with his life. His big chance comes when hes discovered at a boxing match by a young man who teaches at an elite nazi national political school or napol... more »
The Path from Glory to Self Martyrdom
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"BEFORE THE FALL ('NAPOLA') is a brilliantly made film that addresses the blind hopes of youth in becoming a success as a man, a factor that allowed and allows dictators to entice young men into the realm of warriors under the guise of applauded bravery and the golden promise of achieving glory for a great cause. This story just happens to be about Hitler and his 40 Napola (training camps for the elite German youths in 1942) and the young boys and men who trained in these National Political societies. It could be found in many places and in many times...
Friedrich Weimer (handsome and talented young Max Riemelt) comes from the lower class in Germany (his father is aiming him toward factory work) and is a fine young boxer. His talents are noted by some representatives from the Nazi party and he is asked to report for enrollment in a Napola, an important means of education and training that Friedrich sees as being his way to become something special, someone important. His father is anti-Nazi and refuses to let Friedrich go, but Friedrich is determined and runs into the night to join the Napola. Once there he is admitted, groomed as a boxer for the Napola, and introduced to the Hitler's youth movement. His fellow classmates vary from the very wealthy to other fine Arian lads. They are trained, observed, and brainwashed as to the glory of the Thousand Year Reich. Problems begin to arise when Friedrich gets to know his fellow classmates: Siegfried (Martin Goeres) is a bedwetter and is humiliated publicly for his problem; Albrecht (Tom Schilling) is a poet and writer whose father is one of the governors of the Napola and Albrecht is anti-war; other lads seem on the surface to be obedient yet most have hidden reservations about what they are doing.
Being 1942 some changes are occurring in the Nazi dream and the Senior class is sent out on a mission to fight the enemy. And one night Friedrich's class is called out of bed and sent into the woods to find Russian soldiers who are 'threatening' their security. The boys open fire on the Russians only to find that they have killed a number of unarmed Russian boys. This profoundly disturbs them all, but Albrecht in particular. Friedrich continues to observe the manner in which he and the other boys are used and slowly his best friends find ways to martyr themselves and ultimately Friedrich does the same in his only way - by changing the way he approaches the Napola expectations of his boxing.
Max Riemelt as Friedrich is outstanding: not only does he have the solid extraordinary good looks but he also can act, satisfying every nuance of this challenging role. The remainder of the cast - both young boys and the adults running the Napola - are superb. The cinematography is subtly beautiful, ranging from the tough interiors inside to the vistas of a Germany before it was destroyed by the not too distant fall. Director Dennis Gansel, who co-wrote the script with Maggie Peren, is a young man (the featurette with the DVD has an enlightening conversation between Gansel and Riemelt) knows exactly how to capture both the wide-eyed innocence of youth and the slowly crumbled ideals of young men. This is an outstanding film to see and experience. Its lessons are terrifying and intense. In German with English subtitles. Grady Harp, June 06
Underrated and worth a viewing
M. Bailey | Minneapolis MN | 05/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's a shame this film didn't get a wider release in the U.S. I saw it by chance on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and found it engrossing, intelligent, and thought-provoking.
"Before the Fall"'s strengths are not those of groundbreaking formal style or especially original narrative. Rather, the film uses a familiar device (people of different backgrounds coming together for a common purpose) in an unfamiliar context. Set in a prestigious academy for training the elite of what was to prove a very curtailed Nazi future, the film depicts the relationship between two young men - one working-class and one whose family is already a member of the Third Reich's ruling class - and their slow, unlikely discovery of a common resistance to fascism and its inhumane demands.
Unlike, for example, Volker Schloendorff's "The Tin Drum," which portrays Nazism as a creeping cancer on civil society, "Before the Fall" puts the viewer in the interesting and compromised position of initially sympathizing with the fascist order - via the young boxer who sees the Napola school as his ticket to a more comfortable life.
Taking this a step farther, what's remarkable about "Before the Fall" is its general interrogation of masculinity and its discontents, a concern that, in the first half of the film, marginalizes the treatment of Nazism. From the get-go, this could easily be a film that simply addresses militarism and machismo regardless of specific historical context.
The film's predictability almost becomes a strength in this regard. The boys' growing realization of their tragic bond, despite their vast differences, has all the implacability and inevitability of a meteor. They, and you, can see it coming, but there's no way they can escape. Their newfound humanity prevents them from trying to rationalize or compromise with the vast evil that surrounds them. To the previous point, did pathological hypermasculinity beget Nazism, or vice versa?
"Before the Fall," along with "Downfall," another excellent recent film about the Nazi era, together serve perhaps as evidence that German cinema seems to be moving toward a more nuanced depiction of the country's infamous past. This depiction acknowledges the horrors but, by fostering a certain kind of sympathy for its characters, also reminds us that the impulses toward genocide and fascism are unfortunately not limited to any particular people or historical epoch. "Before the Fall"'s equation of a cult of (hyper) masculinity with state-sanctioned brutality should give all of us pause in a time when militarism seems to be on the rise.
Finally, I found it interesting that one critic remarked, disparagingly, that the general setup and character delineation resembled a recent American film, "Annapolis," set in the U.S. Naval Academy. (Whether or not that film represents a critique of its setting I can't say.)
For those interested in the relationship between the aesthetics of Nazi cinema and those of Hollywood, I would recommend Eric Rentschler's "Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife". For everyone else, this film is simply an absorbing and thoughtful entertainment.
The Fuhrer's Fools
Jonathan Appleseed | 04/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The German title of this film is "Napola". Napola's were "National Political Institutes of Education", or Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten. They were community education sites that appeared when the National Socialists came into power in 1933. (Not 1942 as another review indicates.) They had very strict entrance exams. The blind and deaf need not apply, and racial purity was of prime concern. Indeed, when Friedrich (Max Riemelt) enrolled, measurements of his head were taken, his eyes were "sized", and his hair was color coded. When finished, he was declared "Nordic Class One B". One glance at Friedrich, and the first word that would pop into most people's mind, especially when watching a German film, is "Aryan".
He had received attention while boxing, and his prowess gains him an invitation to the "community" Napola, even though it is unusual for students his age to be accepted. I'm guessing that he is about seventeen; I don't recall the film specifically giving an age. His father strictly forbids him, as he does not want to be associated with the Nazi's. He wants Friedrich to become an apprentice and work in the factories. But Friedrich has grander plans for himself. Departing silently in the middle of the night, he leaves two notes behind for his parents. To his mother, he is apologetic. To his father, he tells him that he forged his father's signature, and that if his father tries to take him out of the school he will tell the Gestapo what his father said about the Napola's. His father doesn't take this well, and unleashes his anger on Friedrich's bicycle.
Arriving at the Napola, Friedrich is awed by its physical beauty - the school is housed in a gorgeous castle - and by how smart and purposeful he looks in his uniform. In the opening day speech, the headmaster states that everyone here is equal, regardless of where they came from. Farmer's son, whatever, it doesn't matter. He also says that when final victory is achieved, Germany will need Governors - not only for herself and Austria, but also for Washington, London, Moscow, and Cape Town. It's clear that they are grooming these boys not only to be soldiers, but also to be good little Nazi's. Friedrich's genuine smile and excitement is difficult to miss, and on such an innocent face it's difficult to see when looking back with the benefit of hindsight. One can't help but wonder how many students, like him, perfectly normal, became the Fuhrer's fools.
Instruction at the Napola is rigorous, both physically and academically, although when discussing evolution they don't so much discuss the theory of evolution as it pertains to science, but how it applies to Hitler's beliefs: the culling of the weak. Physically, they go through many of the same drills that we see our own Marines go through during training camp.
Friedrich meets a smaller boy, Albrecht (Tom Schilling), whom he immediately befriends. Throughout the film, Albrecht serves not only as Friedrich's conscience, but also as the film's moral center. Albrecht's father, Heinrich, is the Governor, and is firmly in Hitler's corner. Albrecht is his father's antithesis. Albrecht is an aesthete - and we are told at a memorial service for someone who committed suicide, but is hailed instead as a hero, that there is no room for aesthetes in Hitler's army - indeed, Friedrich is blunt force. We see the differences between Albrecht and Friedrich when Albrecht invites Friedrich to come home with him for his father's birthday. Friedrich impresses Heinrich as he has heard much about his boxing. In, perhaps, drunken stupidity, the Governor has the two boys box down in the cellar. Friedrich has no desire to hit his friend, but Albrecht must impress his father and mounts a rather ineffective offensive. When one or two of his punches land, Friedrich puts him down with two punches. Heinrich and his friends are proud of Friedrich and ignore Albrecht.
The entrance of Heinrich serves as the introduction of the harsh realities of Nazism and Hitler's regime. The school itself has so far been but a tool for Hitler, and the children, remote and removed, know only their studies, themselves, and their training. One night a group of Russian prisoner's escapes into the woods surrounding this Napola, and Heinrich comes to them asking for help. The prisoners, he says, are "armed and dangerous" (so to speak), and sends the students into the woods after them, for the students know the woods better than anyone.
In the woods, the boys become men, in an initiation most of us will never see; we can be thankful for that.
"Before the Fall" works very well in everything that it does. The boxing scenes are good and the strong friendship between Albrecht and Friedrich is believable. They are very different people. Albrecht comes from privilege, and doesn't necessarily want it, and Friedrich looks at the Napola as something that can give him access to privilege that his poor family could not. They are drawn together, perhaps because Friedrich senses that he has something to learn from Albrecht.
Both Schilling and Riemelt put in excellent performances. It would be easy to portray Albrecht as simply weak, but Schilling makes us believe that Albrecht is a young man with strong convictions. Riemelt is helped with his Aryan good looks, but he proves to be a fine actor as well. In an emotional scene between the two friends, it's difficult to see that either are acting - although I would give the edge in performance to Schilling. His eyes resonated with intellect and emotion.
No Name | los angeles,, california United States | 07/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I so ENJOYED this movie. The acting was superb, and the direction was crisp and sharp. The film-makers and actors had consulted with people and experts who had actually lived during the that ravenous Nazi era for authenticity and correctness of dress, speech, and the attitudes that prevailed.
I thought I would be bored with the boxing sequences, but they were great; the friendship between the two leading actors was very strong and very poignant; the micro single-mindness of the Nazi regime of Napola certainly expressed the macro megalomanical mind of the German government at that time.
I suggest that anyone who sees this movie also looks at the making of this movie to see how thorough the director and staff were to make this movie come alive. I was more impressed than I can convey.