25 November 2007 | RKBlumenau
A blend of comedy, irony, slapstick - and an underlying seriousness
I went to see this film with mixed anticipation because it was said to be a comedy about Hitler; but it had the great late actor Ulrich Muehe in it, and I was intrigued by what I had read about the plot of this film: a few days before the end of the war Hitler is a nervous wreck and incapable of making the inspiring speech which Goebbels has written for him. He needs coaching by an actor, and it must be someone who can rouse him to new heights of hatred which Hitler's favourite actors are said not to be able to do. So Goebbels gets a formerly famous Jewish drama teacher, Professor Gruenbaum, released from Sachsenhausen concentration camp with the task of coaching Hitler.
The acting was superb: Muehe's as Gruenbaum, of course, and also Helge Schneider's as Hitler, Sylvester Groth's as a smooth Goebbels, Ulrich Noethe's as Himmler (though it was surely unnecessary to have him have his arm strapped in a permanent Hitler salute), Stephan Kurt's as Albrecht Speer (not at all shown as the least guilty of the Nazis; and the members of Gruenbaum's family: Adriana Altaras' as his wife and Shawn Karlborg as his eldest teenage son. The production was also first class - excellent photography and absolute clarity of diction.
I think the film works very well except on the several occasions when the 'comedy' ('irony' would be a better word) tips over into slapstick which really should have been cut, both from the point of view of good taste and also because I think they weaken the film. The way in which Gruenbaum gradually acquires mastery over Hitler is beautifully paced and in terms of the film is even psychologically credible. Of course Gruenbaum, urged on by his wife, should use the opportunity of being so near to Hitler to kill him, and he twice comes near to do it; but in the end of course he doesn't - too proud of his success as a coach? And how does one end such a film? The climax is well staged, but doesn't, I think, quite come off.
With the reservations I have, I am glad I saw the film. There was little laughter during the showing I attended - and I think that was right and not a criticism of the film: the slapstick didn't deserve it, and the 'comedy' had of course underlying it a serious idea which forbids laughter.