Add a Review

  • Just as sinking of 'Wilhelm Gustloff' out-do the sinking of better known 'Titanic' in the sheer size of catastrophe, the TV-made "Gustloff" beats Cameron's movie in almost every field. The film starts with life on German east and presents a wide array of characters each facing a dark perspectives flowing from inevitable Reich defeat. The chaos and fear that dominated the eastern Prussian provinces in 1945 is very faithful with historical truth. The film then goes on to showing Gustloff's voyage and chain of events that led German heroes to final fall. Each of characters is memorable: from comic Nazi official who cares only for the evacuation of fuhrer's portrait from sinking ship to stern and cold-blooded commander Harald responsible for navy intel. The romance story is interwoven carefully, without interfering with the main intrigue, and not so naive and pretentious as in 'Titanic', just as mysterious spy plot.
  • The Wilhelm Gustloff was the Third Reich's classiest passenger liner when she was pressed into service evacuating German civilians from Poland as the Soviets advanced in the waning days of WWII. Loaded with 10,000 passengers (crammed into every public space available), the Wilhelm Gustloff departed from Gdansk (Danzig) sailing for the German port of Kiel. During the night she was torpedoed by a Russian submarine and sank in 45 minutes, taking 9,000 souls with her (some say closer to 6,000). It remains the worst loss of life from a single sinking in maritime history. There has been controversy with some on the German side alleging a war crime, in that refugee non-combatants were killed in large numbers. The captain of the submarine (Marinesko) lived under this cloud until his death in the 60's. His commanders recommended he not be given the highest honors because his alcoholism and history of being AWOL made him unsuitable to be a hero.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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".
  • And by "sensational" I mean "over-dramatic" and "too sentimental."

    Read Gunter Grass' Crabwalk or watch the original film Nacht fiel über Gotenhafen for a much more critical, and thereby realistic, depiction of the worst maritime disaster in recorded history. Tanja Dückers Celestial Bodies does a pretty good job as well.

    Hollywood-caliber films that attempt to make a blockbuster out of tragedy will never succeed to capture the full complexity of reality!! Still, the only attempt in almost 50 years and the second of all time...

    so D- for effort.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Diane and I watched this fascinating insight into a little known WWII tragedy several nights ago and the horror of what we watched unfold will long remain with us. I had only read references to the sinking of the Gustloff and it being history's worst naval disaster but seeing the unfolding of the events of that disaster was truly harrowing. The inevitability of the outcome was like the unfolding of a terrible Greek tragedy, the end of which was already known.

    Diane and I both were impressed by the acting of the large cast and the ability of the director to manage this large group of people as effectively as was seen in the film. We were also impressed by the myriad of subplots that peppered the script: the subplot of the captains, some military and others not; the Russian spy; the girlfriend of the captain; the young boy trying to avoid discovery and inevitable induction into the army; the U-boat group forced to leave their school and overall, like some dark cloud, Hitler's continuing refusal to admit eventual defeat. All of this constitutes an extremely heady broth and one that will certainly provide an excellent evening's entertainment even though the fatal nature of this broth will probably be known by any person taking the time to view this film.
  • OJT5 July 2013
    I must admit I was looking forward to see this dramatization of the sinking of MS Gustloff, and the film is well done in most aspects, but what's worse is that there are too much drama, just like with Titanic. This is a problem since this of course this is a true story, which is told up quite closely. However, this just seems overloaded, to that extent that vi stop believing. like with Titanic.

    It's simply too much. The drama is out of control completely overblown and so is the happy ending. There is really no happy ending when 9000 people die in the worst ship catastrophe in the world, but still there are some amazing survival stories here, which are just amazing in them selves.

    A good tip: You'll enjoy this 3 hour long film more if you watch the documentary which is following the DVD before you see the actual film. Then you'll understand that much if this REALLY is true, and only some minor changes in the connection with the people are made as a dramatization. If you do that, you will have a much bigger appreciation for the film, which otherwise really is almost too unbelievable.

    But production value is good, and so is the film craftsmanship. The manuscript and the many plots and persons in this is what's killing of what could have been a good movie. It ends up bing mediocre.

    A 5 out of 10 only when you see th film. A 7 out of 10 if you watch the documentary on the DVD before the actual film!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Die Gustloff" or "The Gustloff" is a German double feature movie from 2008, so this one will have its 10th anniversary next year already. It is a small screen release and consists of two parts. Each of these runs for slightly over 1.5 hours. The title already gives away the time when this is set, namely during World War II, even if the word Gustloff will perhaps not be know to too many, even if it personifies one of the biggest German losses during these dark days of World War II. But today we are supposed to talk about this film and not about the historic event of the sinking of the Gustloff and honestly I would not say at all that the movie did justice to the tragedy. But first things first: The director here is Joseph Vilsmaier, a Bavarian filmmaker who has worked in the industry for a long time, so you may have some expectations reading this name. Then again he is probably not the one to blame for the disappointing outcome, but this honor goes to writer Rainer Berg, who may also have been experienced back then already, but not exactly with quality films. So the quality of these over three hours here that actually felt a lot longer even is somewhat predictable. Quite a shame. The cast includes names that you frequently find in these "television epics" like Wiesonger, Niehaus, Lauterbach, Fulton-Smith and maybe Mendl too, all people whose names ring familiar to German film buffs, but more because of their charisma than because of their range. Oh yeah, Vilsmaier's ill-fated wife Dana Vávrová is in here too as well as Karl Markovics, the only one who received awards attention from the cast. But these two I would rather count under the category of quality actors I think, especially Markovics.

    Anyway, as a whole the film lacks considerably focus during its almost 190 minutes and at this runtime it really hurts the viewing experience. Instead of really delivering on the informative level, the film loses itself in sequences and story lines about romantic relationships between characters, about generic power structure struggles, about parent-child relationships and it's perfectly fine to include stuff like that if you make a film of over three hours, but you still should not lose the core of it all out of sight, namely the Gustloff tragedy, but to me apart from the occasional camera shots and Nazi costumes this film felt for 90% of its time as if it could have been about any other random catastrophe to be honest. I do believe it is on the same weak level as the more known Dresden for example and I don't recommend checking it out. I have seen other reviewers mention the West German 1960 black-and-white movie "Nacht fiel über Gotenhafen" and that it deals more accurately and realistically with the subject, but I cannot say if this is true. I remember not liking that one very much either. Perhaps the entire subject still needs a more competent execution to depict the events from over 70 years ago convincingly and entertainingly and informatively. "Die Gustloff" is not what you are looking for. Don't watch.