Alone in Berlin

2016-11-18 07:57

What it's about:

Berlin, 1940. Working class couple Otto and Anna Quangel receive the news that their only son has lost his life in the battlefield and decide to resist the Nazi regime in their very own way. Soon the Gestapo is hunting “the threat.”

What we thought:

Most films centred on the Nazi regime of World War II focuses on resistance from other countries, but Alone in Berlin highlights defiance that came from within Germany’s citizenry. The story is very interesting and inspiring, and when Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson are in the cast you know the acting grade will be A+. Unfortunately, none of this left too much of an impact due to a lack of cinematographic creativity and authenticity, as if you are watching an off-Broadway play rather than an art-noir film.

After the death of their son in the war, a German couple (Gleeson and Thompson) decide to write anti-Nazi postcards and leave them in public spaces to be found and circulated amongst the populace. A police inspector (Daniel Brühl) is tasked with finding the writers of these treacherous letters, but struggles to make sufficient progress in the case for his commanding officers.

The story of civil disobedience during a time when it could not only get you killed, but your loved ones as well, is a remarkable story. It shows how pain becomes transfigured into action and Gleeson and Thompson together gave a tragic performance that held power in the characters’ pain. They appear at first to be an odd pairing but their chemistry was infectious. German actor Brühl also did a stellar job and despite seeming to be at first the antagonist, you realise the real villain is the fascist state and the impact it had on the psyche of the German people. 

These various elements should have made for an award-winning film, but unfortunately French director Vincent Perez couldn’t quite grasp the cinematic aspect and put forth a film that felt like an act rather than real life. Historical dramas require a certain style to make it suit the era it portrays, and too much dependence was put on the actors to bring the story to life. It hurts to see it fail in terms of cinematography, especially when you see the potential it could have had. The shots were there but the direction wasn’t, and the monotonous style throughout the film took away the emotional intensity that drove the story.

Before Alone in Berlin I have never heard of this real-life couple, and it was something different in the dearth of WWII stories that proliferate historical dramas. The quiet rebellion made up of mutinous messages did not need big heroics or exploding tanks to keep the audience enthralled – it only needed the flair of the art-noir and a creative hand with the camera. 

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