Throwing sand in the gears of the Nazi war machine by Richard Jones

 

aloneA look at Alone In Berlin (M)

THERE have been countless films about resistance movements and how they functioned against the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy during World War 2.

But how about resistance against Hitler’s Nazis right in the German heartland: in Berlin itself.

Well, in director Vincent Perez’ 103-minute movie a German couple do their little bit as they attempt to alert fellow Berliners to the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich.

Anna Quangel (Emma Thompson) belongs to the Nazi Women’s League where the duties of members include visiting the wives of German soldiers.

Ostensibly the NWL women try to bolster the confidence and resolve of the wives. It’s not advisable to give slackers of high-ranking officers – especially if they’re on the way up in the SS hierarchy – any sort of lecture or stern talking-to.

Otto Quangel (Brendan Gleeson) is a factory foreman and he and Anna live in a reasonably comfortable top-floor apartment just along from a retired judge.

The Quangels’ whole world collapses when they receive a telegram in 1941 informing them their soldier son has been killed at the front. Until the arrival of the telegram the couple had never doubted Hitler and Nazism.

It’s then that Otto decides he must do something to alert fellow Berliners to the evils and misdeeds of the regime.

He dons gloves and writes notes and messages on postcards which he leaves in buildings all across Berlin. He disguises his hand-writing by writing part of the messages in capitals.

The postcards have lines such as: ‘Mother! The Fuhrer has murdered my son’ and ‘Hitler’s war is the worker’s death.’

This small act of defiance – which Otto describes as “throwing sand into the gears of the Nazi war machine” – isn’t embraced first up by Anna.

Gradually, Anna warms to the cause and even starts distributing the postcards herself.

After the first batches of the eventual 285 cards have been handed in to the police by Berliners, Inspector Escherich (Daniel Bruhl) is tasked with hunting down the ‘traitor’ or ‘traitors’.

Just in case he doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation a high-ranking SS officer delivers a few stinging facial blows to Escherich, leaving the policeman (remember, he’s on the same side) bleeding and cut up.

A couple of likely suspects are interrogated but Escherich and his underlings quickly discount the postwoman’s husband and the derelicts from the basement of the Quangel and retired judge’s apartment block.

The police are certain that a married couple, with at least one son and maybe two, is responsible for the distribution of the postcards and they narrow down the inner city locations where the postcard writer or writers must live.

Thompson and Gleeson are really believable in their roles, despite speaking in German-accented English. So, too, does Bruhl even though he’s a fluent German speaker.

In a tiny sub-plot the Quangels and the retired judge come to the aid of en elderly Jewish woman who lives a couple of floors below them. Their humanity is evident in the way they assist the lady and shield her from the basement-dwelling Nazi hooligans.

 

 

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