Tuesday, September 25, 2007


by Steven Williams

This is a brief digression not directly related to books. I have read fairly heavily about the 'Dark Valley' of the 1930s (borrowing the phrase from Piers Brendon's deeply interesting book on the subject). I think this interest is sparked in part as a reaction to the loss of living history as the generation of the 1930s rapidly begins to disappear. The Dark Valley by Piers Brendon front coverBeyond the sense of loss with the passing of this generation, I find myself drawn to the question of how a culture as sophisticated and as intellectually rich as Germany's could have descended into industrialized genocide. While I feel I have obtained no particularly deep personal understanding of the issues, I am convinced that the ongoing discussion and exploration of this period by historians provides an important caution to everyone that 'it can happen here.'

Color photograph of Traudl Junge.Notwithstanding an interest in history but in part related to it, I also have a particular interest in films exploring the central question of knowledge and culpability for the Nazi's genocides. The noted documentary 'Blind Spot - Hitler's Secretary" by André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer about Traudl Junge, one of Hitler's personal secretaries during WWII and the woman to whom Hitler dictated his final testament, makes a significant contribution to understanding how naiveté, ignorance, and willful obliviousness can combine to bring dangerous people to positions of great political power and then allow them to perpetrate terribly inhuman governmental policies such as the Final Solution. Another film that seems especially important to reaching a better understanding of the human frailties behind the Holocaust is 'Downfall' (aka 'Der Untergang') starring Bruno Ganz. Ganz is probably most familiar to Americans from his role in 'Wings of Desire' (aka 'Der Himmel über Berlin'), remade by Hollywood into the interesting but much less striking 'City of Angels.' A black and white photograph of the actor Bruno Ganz.In trying to find information on the DVD versions of 'Downfall' and which edition contained the most interesting supplementary material, I found myself doing quite a bit of casual online research. Generally, I discovered that no one source could provide complete information about any particular DVD edition of this film. It should be kept in mind that the sources I drew this material from were usually incomplete and not infrequently contradictory. I hope that by posting together at one time and in one place what was important for me to discover, would, in turn, make the information both more accessible to a greater number people interested in such things as well as provide for possible sources of correction and/or supplementary information. I think I can reasonably say that the following material is the most accurate currently available with the caveat that there are possibly significant if not glaring errors either of assumption or omission. I have also included images of the DVD case artwork as additional reference material for differentiating DVD editions.

Black and white still of Bruno Ganz as the angel Damiel in Wenders’ film 'Wings of Desire'.Two important notes on editions:
1. A rough translation from German language sites regarding the listed additional supplementary material on the region 2 three-disk Premium Extended edition (i.e., German TV) indicates that there is English subtitling for the hearing impaired (aka English HoH). I have been unable to confirm definitively that this accessibility is provided for all of the additional supplementary material.
2. The region 2 three-disk Premium Extended edition is an extended version shown on German television (region 1 155 minutes vs. region 2 149 minutes vs. region 2 German TV 177 minutes). I could not find any reasonably accessible details on how the differences in film length might impact the viewer or expand on the director's vision, though there are some indications that some historically accurate material was cut for theatrical release because of its Pythonesque qualities.

Downfall (2004)

Oliver Hirschbiegel Director
Bernd Eichinger Screenwriter
Bernd Eichinger Producer

Based on the books 'Inside Hitler's Bunker' by Joachim Fest and 'Until the Final Hour' (aka 'Till the Last Minute'), which was co-written by Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge (see also the documentary film 'Blind Spot - Hitler's Secretary').

Juliane Kohler: Eva Braun
Justus von Dohnanyi: General der Infanterie Wilhelm Burgdorf
Birgit Minichmayr: Gerda Christian
Thomas Kretschmann: SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein
Ulrich Matthes: Joseph Goebbels
Corinna Harfouch: Magda Goebbels
Matthias Habich: Prof. Dr. Werner Haase
Ulrich Noethen: Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler
Bruno Ganz: Adolf Hitler
Alexandra Maria Lara: Traudl Junge
Rolf Kanies: General der Infanterie Hans Krebs
André Hennicke: SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke
Christian Berkel: Prof. Dr. Ernst-Günter Schenck
Heino Ferch: Albert Speer
Michael Mendl: General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling

Film negative format: 35 mm
Cinematographic process: Spherical
Printed film format: 35 mm
Aspect ratio: 1.85 : 1

Germany Theatrical Release: 16-Sep-2004
US Theatrical Release: 18-Feb-2005 (NY), 25-Feb-2005 (LA)

Caída (South American Spanish), Chute (French), Undergången (Swedish), Çöküs (Turkish), A Queda! As Últimas Horas de Hitler (Portuguese), Allakäik (Estonian), La Caduta: Gli ultimi giorni di Hitler (Italian), El Hundimiento (Spain), Perikato (Finnish), The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich, Der Untergang: Hitler und das Ende des 3. Reichs (German), Upadek (German working title)

DVD Releases of interest

The 'Downfall' region 1 DVD front cover.REGION 1
DVD Format: Widescreen Anamorphic, 1.78:1, Closed Captioned, Color, NTSC
Sondtrack(s): German Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Language: German
Subtitles: English
Aspect Ratio: 16:9/1.78:1
Number of discs: 1
Release Company: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: 02-Aug-2005
Runtime: 155 minutes
Region: 1
UPC: 043396115453
DVD Features: Additional Release Material: 'Hitlers letzten Tage - Making-of' (i.e., 'Hitler's Last Days') documentary (58:33 minutes) with commentary by director Oliver Hirschbiegel in German with English subtitles; Interviews Cast and Crew (only five short interviews of the major actors are provided; these interviews are intertwined with the 'Making-of' featurette and are also viewable separately) in German with English subtitles; Commentary Track by director Oliver Hirschbiegel in English.

The 'Der Untergang' (aka 'Downfall') region 2 German premium edition two disk version DVD front cover.REGION 2
'Der Untergang' (Premium Edition, 2 DVDs)
DVD Format: Widescreen Anamorphic, 1.78:1, Color, PAL
Soundtrack(s): German DTS 5.1 Surround, German Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Language: German
Subtitles: German HoH and English
Aspect Ratio: 16:9/1.78:1
Number of discs: 2
FSK: Freigegeben ab 12 Jahren
Release Company: Paramount - DVD
DVD Release Date: 17-Mar-2005
Runtime: 149 minutes
Region: Region 2
German UPC/EAN: 4011976825982
UK UPC/EAN: 5060049147093
Trailers; Reviews
The 'Downfall' (aka 'Der Untergang') region 2 UK English two disk version DVD front cover.*Note: The special features apparently are subtitled in the UK but not the German versions of this edition.
DVD-Extras DVD 2: 'Hitlers letzten Tage - Making-of' (i.e., 'Hitler's Last Days') documentary (58:33); Melissa Müller on Traudl Junge (8:21); Two production featurettes with audio commentary by the director (48:02): 'Shooting in Russia' (17:59) and 'Behind-the-Scenes' (30:03); Interviews with actors and crew (circa 90 minutes): Bruno Ganz (6:18), Alexandra Maria Lara (1:42), Corinna Harfouch (4:31), Ulrich Matthes (1:52), Juliane Köhler (2:27), Heino Ferch (2:34), Ulrich Noethen (1:49), Thomas, Kretschmann (1:13), Thomas Thieme (1:55), Bernd Eichinger (4:19), Joachim Fest (13:27), and Oliver Hirschbiegel (4:04); Virtual tour of Der Führerbunker (circa 13 minutes); Notes about the historical figures and the actors portraying them; Biographical notes for: Bernd Eichinger, Joachim Fest, Oliver Hirschbiegel
*Notes regarding the UK English version (i.e., possible differences from the German premium two disk version): The DVD 2 extras list states that the interviews featurette runs for only about 55 minutes and that the 'Shooting in Russia' featurette has audio commentary from members of the production crew, not the director.

The 'Der Untergang' (aka 'Downfall') German premium edition three disk extended version DVD front cover.REGION 2
Der Untergang (Premium Edition, Extended Version, 3 DVDs)
Format: Widescreen Anamorphic, 1.78:1, Color, PAL
Soundtrack(s): German Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Language: German
Subtitles: German HoH and English
Aspect Ratio: 16:9/1.78:1
Number of discs: 3
Release Company: Highlight
DVD Release Date: 20-Oct-2005
Runtime: 177 minutes
Region: Region 2
UPC/EAN: 4011976831983
DVD 1: 175 minute TV version. Optional German subtitles for the hearing-impaired (Colortitle), Optional English subtitles for the hearing-impaired, Optional audiocommentary by Bernd Eichinger
DVD-Extras DVD 2: Making of 'Hitlers letzte Tage' (aka 'Hitler's Last Days") (circa 58 minutes); Melissa Müller liest aus dem Buch 'Bis zur letzten Stunde' (Müller reads from the book 'Until the Final Hour' accompanied with film cuts (circa 5 minutes); Melissa Müller on Traudl Junge (circa 8 minutes); 'Melissa Müller discuss selected scenes' -featurette (circa 15 Min.); 'Bunkerarchäologe Dietmar Arnold über den Führerbunker' (Archaeologist Dietmar Arnold about the bunker) -featurette (circa 21 minutes); The Bunker 3D (a virtual tour of Der Führerbunker with scenes from the film) (circa 13 minutes).
DVD-Extras DVD 3: Interviews with cast and crew (23 interviews circa 90 minutes), 'The Shooting of Downfall' featurettes: 'Shooting in Russia' (with Commentary by Production Executive Christine Rothe and Production Designer Bernd Lepel) (circa 18 minutes) and 'B-Roll - Shooting Downfall' (with Commentary by Director Oliver Hirschbiegel) (30:03); Storyboards with Oliver Hirschbiegel (circa 3-5 minutes); Cast and crew biographies (text pages); Biographies of major historical personages portrayed (text pages).
8-Page Collector's Booklet (German).

The World War II Memorial in Washington, DC night view

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Creative Commons License
Downfall aka Der Untergang, a major film about the Second World War by Steven Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting Steven Williams through Bookmarc's BookmarcsOnline.

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