7 February 2006 | weed_harper
A complicated historical episode
I came to this film with a detailed knowledge of the actual historical events. Many viewers will most likely be largely unfamiliar with the complexities of the case, and there are some details which are important, but glossed over.
For example: there are frequent references in the dialogue to Furtwängler's rival, Herbert von Karajan ("Little K.") Why did the Americans attack Furtwängler, and not von Karajan, who was an ardent Nazi? Furtwängler was prevented from conducting in the U.S., while von Karajan was lionized. Perhaps the makers of this film thought that the implications of this were too big to be discussed in the film. I'm sure that they didn't even want to go near the fact that the people who ran the de-nazification program were Americans with close ties to the Nazis themselves.
Also, Furtwängler's rationale for staying in Germany was somewhat more philosophical than the film implies. He thought he was defending the legacy of Mozart, Beethoven et al against the Nazis, and that this was a sacred responsibility. A bit of this comes out in the film, but in a superficial way.
With respect to the success of the film otherwise, Stellan Skarsgaard is excellent as Furtwängler, even managing to resemble him somewhat. I think that Harvey Keitel is somewhat hampered by the script -- the film would have been more successful if Keitel had come off as more conflicted and less one-dimensional. Clearly the director wished to imply that Keitel was conflicted, but that, as a military man, he was required to toe the line -- the frequent shots of Army indoctrination films (about how bad the Germans were) were intended to provide a rationale for Keitel's behavior. But the film would have been more compelling if Keitel were given an opportunity to express more doubts about what he was being asked to do. I also thought that the ending was a bit anticlimactic.