birchden Reply to on 7 September 2015
|Berlin, in the dark, late autumn days of 1941: the war with Russia will soon be six months old and the expected quick victory has not materialised: on the contrary the military situation is becoming increasingly clouded as any hope of a swift vitory - or perhaps any victory at all - fades.
General Harras; world war hero, gifted pilot and man of the world is in charge of the development programme for new military aircraft. So far he has allowed his love of flying and his patriotic instincts to overcome any doubts about the moral character of the regime that he serves. But now his department is coming under Gestapo scrutiny as it becomes clear that there is a saboteur at work, who is working in the very heart of the Luftwaffe to frustrate the introduction of a new bomber type.
Before long, the investigation forces him to confont the true nature of the National Socialist regime and presents him with a terrible dilemma: should he cooperate with the Gestapo, losing all self respect in the process and becoming a willing accomplice to the state's crimes - or should he take the decision to resist, a decision that he knows must cost him everything?
This tense, claustrophobic screen adaption of Carl Zuckmayer's play of the same name follows Harras' mental struggle to come to grips with his situation; he knows that his ability to turn a blind eye to the regime's crimes has already carried him to the highest ranks of the German military, but does he now want to sacrifice his soul? Is he prepared to accept the mantle of the Devil's General?
In what must arguably be his finest screen performance, Jurgens brings all of his passion and gravitas to the role of Harras, never being anything less than wholly convincing. He is ably supported by the rest of the cast, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that this film must rank among the foremost films of post war European cinema.
The direction and cinematography are also ecellent, each scene somehow exuding an atmosphere of menace and foreboding; no matter how jolly the characters are attempting to be, one is never allowed to forget that they live in a totalitarian state where a wrong word today could mean the concentration camp tomorrow. The contrasty, black and white photography accentuates the general bleakness.
There are too many memorable scenes for the reveiewer to pick out any in particular; I can only thoroughly recommend this film - all the more since it is the full version - to anyone who is interested in the stark choices that are forced on the individual when he comes to realise that the regime under which he lives has become immoral.