MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.
Downfall (2004, 155 minutes)
A very old woman speaks directly into the camera in German. “I should be angry with this childish young thing for not realizing what she was getting into. How could I have agreed to it so impulsively? When I came to Berlin, I could have said, ‘No,’ but my curiosity got the better of me. And I never thought that fate would take me somewhere I never wanted to be.”
In November of 1942, five young ladies have been taken under military escort to a heavily fortified compound in Rastenburg in East Prussia. Once they have been cleared to enter, they are asked to take a seat. “The Führer is feeding his dog,” says the officer with an SS insignia on his collar. “He says he will be with you shortly.” One of the girls asks, “Please, tell me, how does one greet the Führer?” The officer replies, “The Führer will speak to you first, and you just say, ‘Heil, my Führer.’” Another girl asks, “What about the Nazi salute?” “That won’t be necessary,” he replies. “The Führer isn’t recruiting you as soldiers. He’s looking for a secretary.” Polite tittering follows these remarks. “Behave normally. I’ll ask him if he has time for you now.”
He knocks on the heavy door of the adjoining room and announces to the person inside the office, “Mein Führer, the ladies from Berlin are here.” With no further ceremony, Adolf Hitler emerges from his office. He smiles and says, “I’d like to thank you for coming in the middle of the night, ladies. But in war, we aren’t always the masters of our time.”
He walks up to the first girl and asks her name. “Margarethe Lorenz, heil my Führer,” she answers boldly. “And where are you from?” Hitler (Bruno Ganz) inquires.” She says, “Fuld, heil my Führer.” He asks the next one, “And you?” “Ursula Puttkammer, heil my Führer.” “Leave that out, child,” he says of the salutation. “Tell me where you’re from.” Finally, he strides toward the fifth girl, taller than the others and quite good looking. “And you?” “Traudl Humps. I come from Munich,” she replies coolly. After five seconds of deliberation, he smiles at her and says, “So, fraulein Humps, shall we start?” Traudl (Alexandra Maria Lara) nods and follows Hitler into his office.
“Blondi won’t hurt you,” he says of the German Shepherd standing quietly next to a desk. “In fact, she’s more clever than most people are. She has a very sharp mind.” Gesturing to the desk next to his, Hitler says, “Just make yourself comfortable. Don’t be nervous. I make so many mistakes when I dictate. You’ll never make as many as I do,” he says, benevolently, as she sits down and rolls a single sheet of paper into a brand new Continental typewriter.