The good news is that this ain't as bad as Dresden" was but that doesn't make it significantly better. Die Gustloff" also has one cheesy love-affair to escort the catastrophe but while in case of Dresden" that one among other reasons- ruined the whole film, on the Gustloff ... well many other things ruined this even more.
The writers mainly chained plot-points from Titanic" and Pearl Harbor" onto each other but never managed to elevate from the dramaturgical niveau of the second and never reach the tension or at least the FX-level of the first. Gee, Pearl Harbor sucked...
The viewer doesn't get emotionally attached to neither the ship nor one of the characters. The actual sinking is done in four minutes. No tension-curve, no emphasis.
As usual the ZDF and director Joseph Vilsmaier never at least dare to show existentialistic violence and gore as for example Das Boot" did and therefore even fail in the most relevant purpose: to do a valuable anti-war-movie. Most propably this was avoided once more to spare the broad audience the harsh realities of war so nobody pukes their nachos. Now the forecast and then sports...
The TV-play Die Gustloff" is in the outcome mainly a flick about an average naval-tragedy, just as Baltic Storm" was too. About 9000 people died on the Gustloff but you don't even get a feeling for that high death toll because all in all a total of 500 extras. And the editing an camera fail to mulitply that number as they actually should have done. The actual essence of the drama has propably been forgotten on the cargo-docks of Gotenhaven.
Unfortunately under this premises a simple documentary would have suited the memory of the victims better.
Additionaly there've been numerous too obvious goofs like full manned life-boats with survivors that oughta be all soaked-up and wet due to the heavy rain and storm but in many close-ups are dry as a Martini.
The only outstanding performances to be mentioned here are Ortsgruppenleiter Escher", performed by Alexander Held. He reveals his character as the typical hilarious, opportunistic and egomanic Nazi-officer when during the climax, Escher only minds to rescue an over-sized Führer-portrait.
The other is Tom Wlaschiha as a nameless Bosun (Bootsmann"). His character is pragmatic and direct, his loyalty goes to his conscience although it's nowhere said that he's strictly regime-opposing. He's not doing more than absolutely necessary for superior-officers that are dorks but more than asked for superiors which are not. That's a simple and therefor authentic interpretation.
Those two performances appeared the only realistic to me.
Also honorable mention for Kai Wiesinger, particularly during the final ten minutes in Swinemünde. Good performance!
One good thing is that the film doesn't portray the Russian submarine-crew too much. Because if you decide to do this, you have mainly two options: Either as brutal emotionless slayers which isn't accurate, not only because we're not in the 60s anymore and this ain't no OO7-flick. And if you do, then you'd also have to finally admit that for example Das Boot" was complete crap in it's more sympathetic character-painting. Or you political correctly introduce one good guy who just does his job although he struggles with his conscience. Hypocritical and annoying...
Both options appear helpless as -once more- the Japanese fleet-commander in "Pearl Harbor" showed, even though he was portrayed by the late great Mako. So it was good they spared that.
Oh, one direct address: Dear ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen), if you decide to produce a story of such broad moral and historical relevance and/or if you aim to give your productions international quality-look, then get used to fully present the end-credits instead of this crappy standard-panel you used here again! And when you do full credits, do it in a moderate speed so it can be easily read and not in fast-forward as it sadly has become en vogue in todays TV-landscape.
To all non-German users: Das Hornberger Schießen" (Hornberger shoot-out") is an oldfashioned German phrase for some event which was announced with a big bally-hoo prior but then turned out just hot air. Like Much ado about nothing".
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