13 Minutes

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel (2015)

Cinema’s fascination with all things Der Fuehrer continues with this compelling true story about a lone assassination attempt on Hitler.

Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) is a liberty loving patriot who wants to prevent a war he believes will destroy Germany.

So on 8th November 1939 in a Munich beer hall he planted explosives timed to explode where Hitler was due to speak. High ranking Nazi’s Himmler, Heydrich and Goebbels were also present.

Due to fog changing his travel plans, Hitler avoids the bomb by thirteen minutes.

Seven people are killed and Elser is arrested. He chooses to sing rather than confess even his date of birth.

Through flashbacks we see Elser’s progress from pacifist musician to violent revolutionary.

He is a skilled musician, dancer, carpenter and clockmaker. Although a communist sympathiser not a party member, his attitudes harden when his friends are prosecuted by the Nazi’s.

The duplicitous way a political message is packaged and sold to a greedy public should act as a warning to a contemporary audience.

Explosions from the nearby quarry are a fanfare of the future, a suggestion of the horrors of war to come.

Although Chief interrogator Nebe (Burghart Klaussner) is quickly convinced Elser acted alone, he receives orders from Hitler to discover who the conspirators were.

The mute secretary typing notes is skilled at judging when to leave the room before the blood begins to flow.

After medieval torture involving straps and heated nails, Elser’s girlfriend Elsa (Katharina Schuttler) is threatened, adding emotional torment to the physical.

There’s beatings, hangings, humiliations, some photography and a fair amount of zither music.

Through a combination of editing (Alexander Dittner) and cinematography (Judith Kaufman) plus some choice screaming and vomiting from Elser, the eye-watering torture is suggested rather than shown.

The production design demonstrates excellent attention to detail for the sophisticated Nazi propaganda and the pre-war period as a whole.

Director Hirschbiegel was Oscar nominated for Downfall (2004), his masterful telling of the last days in Hitler’s bunker. His last film was the appalling biopic of the late Princess of Wales, Diana (2013).

Here he’s created a handsome, intelligent film with tremendous performances but it doesn’t reveal anything new.

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