Film Review

Alone in Berlin

todayJuly 27, 2023 93

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By – Gareth Jones

For fans of WWII historical films, Brendan Gleeson, Emma Thompson, reminders of the effects of fascism, the literary work of Hans Fallada 

Based on the best-seller Every Man Dies Alone by noted German author Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin is a fascinating adaptation of a story based on true events. During World War II an older couple, Otto and Anna Quangel, lose their son in the early days of the war. In response, they transition from removed objectivity to underground resistors, planting postcards anonymously around Berlin stating anti-Hitler and anti-National Socialist slogans. Otto is played by Brendan Gleeson and Anna by Emma Thompson, both putting on a master acting class with their subdued yet resounding performances. When they learn of the death of their son, they respond in opposite but equally devastating ways. It is painfully real. These are two of my all time favorite actors and to see them seamlessly inhabit these characters is a real treasure. 

This is a challenging story, and the German actors are equally strong, most notably Spanish-German Actor Daniel César Martín Brühl González or Daniel Brühl as he is more widely known. He is most famous for his work in Goodbye, Lenin and Captain America, but here he gives a nuanced performance as Inspector Escherich, who is investigating the mysterious postcards. He is obsessed with the “Hobgoblin” case and becomes a sympathetic character when we are introduced to the horrific SS Officer Prall, played with gleeful sadism by Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt. 

The film is directed by Swiss actor/director Vincent Perez, who I knew from his 1990’s acting output of Queen Margot, The Crow II: City of Angels, and Cyrano De Bergerac. I think someone from Switzerland had a valid perspective on this story. As an actor, he connected with his lead actors giving them the space to perform. The score is by the masterful Alexandre Desplat who has won two Oscars for his work with Wes Anderson and Guillermo Del Toro. Here he creates a score that lends additional emotion to the often silent movements of the characters. The cinematography of Christophe Beaucarne, who has worked with Michel Gondry, succinctly captures the shadows and muted colors of the time and lends atmosphere to the story. 

Although it is not a film that will blow you away with grandiosity, it does challenge you to think and hopefully act. The story of two people resisting the Third Reich should inspire you to not only say something, but to do something. Being complacent in those times and in today’s times is not acceptable. The fact that the film came out in 2016 is not a coincidence to me. It was not well received by critics at the time, but I still believe it is worth viewing because of the strong performances of Gleeson and Thompson and because of the story that inspired the novel and now this film adaptation. 

Available to stream now on Tubi, Plex, and Amazon Prime

Written by: Gareth Jones

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