Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Christian Bluemel
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Based on the autobiographical experiences of co-screenwriter and ex neo-Nazi Ingo Hasselbach, this harrowing drama takes a look at the hate-fueled neo-Nazi movement in Germany. In 1980's Berlin, two best friends conceive a... more »
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Story promised real bite but real issues never explored
Christopher Crossley | Wuhan, Hubei Province, China | 01/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This German film, directed by Winfried Bonengel, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Douglas Graham and Ingo Hasselbach, is based upon Hasselbach's personal experiences as a neo-Nazi in the Communist German "Democratic" Republic (GDR) in 1980s' East Berlin, of which some contemporary propaganda footage is seen at the start of the film, with a pop song mimicking the GDR anthem on the soundtrack.
Heiko Degner (Christian Bluemel) and Tommy Zierer (Aaron Hildebrand) are two young ordinary workers who want out of the GDR and harbor a dream of going to Australia, a land of "complete freedom". Unfortunately, their dream receives a major setback when they both get arrested whilst trying to flee illegally to the West across the heavily guarded border at night.
They end up in the notorious Torgau prison, where both men are cruelly introduced to the realities of life behind bars. Tommy meets Friedhelm Kaltenbach (Harry Baer), a neo-Nazi who convinces him that only "the strong" were capable of fighting back against the Reds. Tommy tries to convince Heiko, but the latter wants nothing to do with it. However, he changes his mind after an attempted rape by another prisoner and feels he needs protection. Soon afterwards, with help, Tommy escapes and he ends up in the West.
Some months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tommy is reunited with Heiko in East Berlin. Heiko is now a hard-core neo-Nazi, but Tommy still wants to distance himself from party views. Out of questionable loyalty to Heiko, Tommy reluctantly accompanies the neo-Nazis when they attack a group of Turks, yet he is shocked to see one of the now-dead victims of the attack, a girl named Margit (Jasmin Askan), who had known the two men some years before. Tommy is not only disgusted at the girl's brutal death, but also at Heiko's total lack of compassion. Tommy walks out, but Kaltenbach uses this as a pretext to order Heiko to kill him. What happens finally is brutal and shocking.
This film is not meant to be a polemic about neo-Nazism, but the story leaves some questions unanswered. Tommy's sudden apparent abandonment of his neo-Nazi views, after he co-operated with the secret police in order to secure Heiko's release from solitary confinement, is inexplicable. On the other hand, having been almost raped by a Communist-appointed "stooge", whom the neo-Nazis hated, it is understandable that Heiko would want to receive the "protection" of his fellow prisoners and so he became heavily influenced by them.
The use of Jule Flierl as the boys' mutual love (and sex) interest, Beate, is so peripheral as to be questionable. Flierl is a very promising actress and plays the role of Beate, a very independent woman, very well, yet the character, whom the boys meet at a disco, adds very little to the plot. Even her so-called prison visit is hard to explain. She shocks Heiko by telling him, in effect, of her love for him, yet it serves no purpose in the film other than as a brief respite from what is happening in the main story. She turns out later to be a dancer at a Turkish club, of all places, which Heiko has no problem in visiting along with Tommy, yet his attitude towards the Turks almost immediately turns to hatred simply because Beate tells him she is sick of his Nazi views and that he should get lost.
Though the title of the film is "Fuehrer Ex", at no time was the "Fuehrer" mentioned, nor was a picture of Hitler ever seen. In fact, a picture of his deputy Rudolf Hess (who died in Spandau prison in East Berlin two years before the Wall fell) was to be seen on the front of Heiko's T-shirt. Given that Nazism and neo-Nazism are still sensitive issues in Germany today, one must understand that the amount of content in the film pertaining to these ideologies has to be minimized, although swastikas are clearly seen on armbands worn by members of Kaltenbach's neo-Nazi party.
However, this should not distract from the main idea that any political ideology, no matter how loathsome it may be, will do for any person who feels aggrieved and wants an outlet for his disillusionment and hatred. Heiko and Tommy, played convincingly by young actors Bluemel and Hildebrand, had started out as two young men simply wanting to leave the GDR, yet harbored neo-Nazi views because of what had happened to them after they tried to - in spite of never having harbored such strong political views before.
Winfried Bonengel has directed a thought-provoking film which is only partially about an ideology, which never quite died with the end of the Nazi regime, and the young (and older) minds which were still receptive to it because of factors never fully explored in the movie, such as lack of opportunities for low-educated workers in post-reunification Germany, where neo-Nazism, unfortunately, has survived.
Walt Whitman Would Like These Two
H. F. Corbin | ATLANTA, GA USA | 11/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Set in Berlin FUEHRER EX-- based, we are told, on a true story-- follows the lives of two men, Heiko (Christian Blumel) and Tommy (Aaron Hildebrand), from 1986 to 1990. Young and idealistic, they plot to escape East Germany and flee to Australia but both wind up in prison and get involved with the neo-Nazi movement. The film may be too violent for the taste of some viewers; there is plenty of blood and gore and the expected prison rape scene. On the other hand, the actors look as if they stepped off the street instead of out of a gym; in a word, they are believable as prisoners. The two principals give excellent performances as they grow and change. Tommy, for instance, in the beginning of the movie is the one into neo-Nazism; but Heiko ultimately becomes more involved in the movement.
This is a quite moving film about friendship and the love of comrades. Walt Whitman would have loved it."
A Study of the Effects of Changing Political Ideologies on T
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Führer Ex is a challenging, harsh, and intensely involving tale of the course of friendship of two young lads living in the 'prison' of Communist East Germany in 1986. Based on fact (Ingo Hasselbach's book 'Die Abrechnng' adapted for the screen by Douglas Graham and director Winfried Bonengel), this story relates the changes that occur in the close friendship of two boys torn by the confinement of the East German Communists vs the Western freedom of West Germany and the countries not under Communist control. It informs us about that transition with the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent adjustment to the new form of life East Germans found beyond the crumbled wall.
Heiko (Christian Blümel) is fair-haired, virginal, nice guy who longs for adventure (and more) with his idolized friend Tommy (Aaron Hildebrand), an edgy guy unafraid to get into a bit of trouble (Tommy is arrested for a minor crime and is released from jail shaved and tattooed). The two dream of escaping their rigid lives and fleeing to Australia. Tommy talks Heiko into running the risk of actual escape and together they break through the wires and walls that confine them but are apprehended in their attempt and sentenced to prison in a cruel Communist prison where they are separated, Tommy joining a 'neo-nazi' group and Heiko falling under the 'protection' of a fellow prisoner who eventually rapes him. The two finally are able to talk and plan a mutual escape, hopefully placing themselves in boxes to be transported to freedom. Tommy succeeds; Heiko doesn't and remains in prison.
Flash forward to 1989 and the Berlin wall is down. Tommy is living a life of freedom in the new Berlin and encounters Heiko in a true Neo-Nazi meeting that Heiko is leading. The tables have turned - Heiko is the miscreant and Tommy is the good guy. Convinced that Tommy is a traitor to the ideals of Heiko's political interests, Heiko surfaces all of the hate that brewed in prison and is focused on unjust governments. An event occurs that alters their friendship and Heiko is forced to see that varying political climes and convictions pale in the value of treasured friends.
The film is well paced and the acting is excellent. There are gaps in the script storyline that result in some confusion for the viewer, but the overall impact of the 'biopic' nature of the movie is powerful and deserves attention. It is particularly fitting that this film comes out of Germany, as though it may be a purging of sorts over the initial division of East vs West Berlin. And forgetting about the political aspects of the story, this is a powerful document on the importance of commitment to long-term friends. Recommended. Grady Harp, August 05
Friendship, Ideology, and Loyalty
Octavius | United States | 07/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A German film directed by Winfried Bonengel with a screenplay mainly by Douglas Graham and Ingo Hasselbach. An interesting quasi-biographical account of Hasselbach's experience in East Germany and his former involvment in Neo-Nazi movements in West Germany.
The film first follows the life of two best friends Heiko Degner (Christian Bluemel) and Tommy Zierer (Aaron Hildebrand) in East Germany. Tommy is more a common laborer while Heiko lives the good life on account of his philandering mother who works for the propaganda ministry. At first Zierer appears as the complete anarchist and Degner the mother's boy who is sweet an innocent. Zierer is the bad influence in Heiko's life and both come up with a bold plan to escape to West Germany. They are caught and sent to prison. The personalities of Heiko and Tommy soon change in prison due to brutal events and Heiko becomes a Neo-Nazi while Tommy rediscovers his humanity. Both finally escape to West Germany and meet several years later as different people. While Tommy simply cares for the good life and partying, Heiko is now a leader in a Neo-Nazi group along with his former prison mentor Friedhelm Kaltenbach (Harry Baer.) The climax comes when each has to evaluate their beliefs in light of their friendship and make difficult choices. Heiko's decisions are more strongly influenced by his new ideology while Tommy's is based on his undying loyalty to Heiko.
The movie was well done in terms of its plot and theme and has very powerful scenes that may not be for everyone. There is a significant amount of nudity and many scenes are quite graphic. Certain scenes and characters seem to be clearly fictional and take away from the impact of the story somewhat. Even in Communist East Germany, I find it hard to believe that authorities would place a 13-14 year old boy in an adult prison: that makes absolutely no sense. The female characters also seem to be pure products of fiction to add to the dramatic effect of the film. The biggest defect in the film is covering Heiko's transition to his new ideology. Although the preceding scene somewhat explains why Heiko would seek refuge amongst Neo-Nazis in prison, the film doesn't follow how Heiko was mentored by Kaltenbach; how he was persuaded to completely convert to this ideology: this is especially problematic in that Heiko is not shown to have any anti-semitic views and seems instead completely indifferent to the idea of ultra-nationalism. Perhaps this was the result of the strict laws in Germany as to expressing Nazi ideologies. In any case, it was still a defect to the story which leaves it somewhat incomplete.
Despite its defects, this is a very powerful film that is perhaps more a study of friendship and loyalty more than about Neo-Nazism exclusively. I strongly recommend it."