I’ve just discovered The Downfall and am eager to see it. I learned about this move from bigsleepj on LiveJournal and, from his review, it seems to be part of a different sort of movie about the Holocaust. Life is Beautiful was the first film that I saw like this. Life is Beautiful uses the Holocaust as a backdrop for a love story, but ends up with death in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. But it is a funny little movie. The humor evidently offends some people, but the humor of Life is Beautiful is powerful in the way that The Downfall‘s portrayal of Hitler as a real human (and not just an evil, inhumane monster that we’d like to think of him) is powerful. Evidently, some people would like to just say “Never Again” and let that be the end of it. But it isn’t enough, because as
People want to make monsters of these leaders. Monsters that are “not like us”. I think that’s very dangerous. Either we can all become monsters or none of us are monsters but all capable of amazing evil. Either way, this is not an us vs. them. It’s in us all.
Movies like these help us to understand that the Holocaust wasn’t a special case, but that such great evil can rise from even the most mundane motives. Finally, bigsleepj says “The questions about Hitler, how such a cruel man can be kind and how people are willing to die for him despite it being clear that he’s neither a saviour nor a saint, can not be answered by a single three hour movie.” I would counter that those questions don’t even need to be asked. We are willing to die for what we love and many of us do not love Good. Many of us think Good is nice and sweet, but we don’t love it. Instead, we love power, we love comfort, we love ourselves and, while we don’t set out to cause harm to others, sometimes people get hurt while we pursue our love of power, comfort, and self. But beyond that, what we love impairs our judgment: Hitler was able to accomplish so much destruction because he appealed to people’s self-love so that they were able to overlook his unpleasantness. The humanity of The Downfall‘s Hitler isn’t a curious question, it is a warning to all of us.