Downfall (Der Untergang in German) is a 2004 German/Austrian/Italian film which chronicles the last few days of the Third Reich from Adolf Hitler's assistants and generals to a boy who is part of the Hitler Youth. The film was released in 2004 by Constantin Film AG and was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.
The film was written by Bernd Eichinger, and based upon the books Inside Hitler's Bunker, by historian Joachim Fest; Until the Final Hour, the memoirs of Traudl Junge, one of Hitler's secretaries; portions of Albert Speer's memoirs Inside the Third Reich; Hitler's Last Days: An Eye-Witness Account, by Gerhardt Boldt; Das Notlazarett Unter Der Reichskanzlei: Ein Arzt Erlebt Hitlers Ende in Berlin (The Field Hospital Under the Reich Chancellery: A Doctor's Witness of Hitler's Death) (memoirs) by Doctor Ernst-Günther Schenck; and Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936–1949 (memoirs) by Siegfried Knappe.
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The film depicts the downfall of the crumbling Third Reich as the combined American, British, and Soviet forces tighten the noose around Berlin. From Hitler's 56th birthday on 20 April to his suicide ten days later and the surrender of the city on 2 May, and ranging from various viewpoints such as Hitler himself, his inner circle, and even a 12-year-old boy from the Hitler Youth, it concentrates on the emotional effect of an utterly useless last-ditch effort to buy Nazi Germany a couple of more hours of existence.
There are three known editions of Downfall:
- The Theatrical Edition is the one shown in theaters and is the most common.
- The Extended Edition is a two-part for-TV edition that aired on German television. It generally contains more scenes cut from the Theatrical Edition.
- The Premium Edition is a special DVD and Blu-Ray release with cut content. This is the rarest edition and is still mostly unknown to Untergangers and fans alike.
In the parodies, some scenes used are exclusive to the Extended Edition such as the Krebs meets General Chuikov and might surprise viewers who have watched the shorter, cut Theatrical Edition.
Behind the Scenes
Along with the DVD and Blu-ray release of Downfall are three extra clips:
- Downfall - Behind the Scenes shows the filming of Downfall behind the scenes, and features the film director Oliver Hirschbiegel and producer Bernd Eichinger.
- Filming in St Petersburg shows more of the filming of Downfall which are shot mainly in St Petersburg, which retained much architecture that resembled 1940s Berlin.
- Hitler's Final Days is a documentary about Hitler's last days from the film crew's perspective. It features interviews of the actors about their roles. These found some use in parodies.
Downfall was also dubbed into other languages, including:
- Brazilian Portuguese
...and a notorious Russian over-dub.
This movie would be the base for the countless internet parodies, collectively called Downfall Parodies. The infamous scene where Hitler snaps after learning Steiner ignored his command has been the subject of people adding fake subtitles to make it look like Hitler is angry for something like getting banned from Xbox live. This remains the most recognized part of Downfall Parodies.
Over time, as the novelty of Hitler ranting about stuff wears out, a separate lore begins emerging within these parodies through the work of several parody makers (which came to call themselves Untergangers), where characters begin taking niche roles and personalities. This includes Hermann Fegelein's role as a prankster who loves to annoy Hitler to no end, Otto Günsche informing Hitler of useless stuff, Alfred Jodl who objects to every plan Hitler makes, and so on. As these parody portrayals become more and more distinct and distant from the real-life counterpart as originally depicted in the film, it came to be called the Parody Universe. Sometime after the Universe's establishment, characters from other films, some set around the same time as Downfall (ca. WWII) join the Universe creating separate series that become self-conscious of each other and their interactions add to the story.
Technical-wise, the parodies advanced in the amount of editing involved, with the use of advanced techniques like head pasting, rotoscoping, and auto-tuning, expanding the possibilities of the source material.
The end result of all this is the transformation of a serious anti-war film into endless sketches, slapstick comedy, farce, drama, and various other genres.
- The film's main concern is human emotion and psychology, and how war affects or changes them. Therefore, it is an anti-war film.
- Most of the scenes of the Berlin streets were actually shot in St. Petersburg, where the old buildings have German architectural aspects and modern advertising signs are absent in the streets.
- According to Box Office Mojo, the movie was made at a budget of €13.5 million.
- Downfall was a feature film on the Singapore Airlines entertainment system KrisWorld in February 2012.
- Hans Krebs was not in Berlin on 20 April. He only arrived on the 21st.
- Hermann Göring left the Führerbunker on 20 April, yet he is seen later in the conference room.
- There are neither bullets coming from Peter Högl's MP40 nor wounds in Fegelein's chest in the Fegelein Execution Scene.
- The truck Helmuth Weidling used to announce Berlin's surrender to the Soviets is actually a Soviet-manufactured GAZ-63.