PG-13, 1 hr. 33 min. Directed by: Mark Herman. Release Date: Nov 07, 2008. DVD Release Date: Mar 10, 2009.
I got pointed to this film by one of my readers, and I have to say that she hit all the good points when she described it. I don't know how accurate this movie is in a historical sense, but it made me think (and refamiliarizing myself with the process the Nazis followed during the Holocaust). The movie is a roller-coaster of emotions, all well-foreshadowed so I found myself wishing what I thought was going to happen wouldn't happen. It's a film of many parts, a World War II movie in which no shots were fired, a coming of age story in which the involved parties were forced to come of age before their times, a story of the sacrifices made during friendship and the damage done by deceit, even to protect the young. As a holocaust film, this is relatively gentle, certainly Schindler's List was more direct and to the point, but the idea here is to get us in to the heads of two young boys: one the son of an SS officer, the other a Jew, living in a work camp that is being fitted to serve as a death camp.
There wasn't much about this that I didn't like, but what I especially liked was this discussed the social damage and the rifts that came from the creation and continuation of the Third Reich. It's not apologist by any means, and I would say that the guilty pay the highest price for their beliefs, but we are able to see how families were ripped apart by politics and fear, and how many Germans may have felt the prejudice that helped Hitler's control, but not so many were in agreement with the way things were handled. Scenes with the tutors were also an excellent way to see how Hitler's propaganda machine was taught to the young, and should serve that the only difference between "history" and "propaganda" is who tells the story.
I hated the opening scenes where the boys are running through… I can't remember the German city except that it wasn't Berlin, playing a game where they're fighters or bombers. It was too long and there wasn't enough dialogue (direct or otherwise) to keep my interest for a few minutes. If I'd been in a different mood, or hadn't gotten that recommendation, I might have looked for something a little easier to handle.
The final scenes are horrible, not in the way they are crafted, but in what they present to the audience. I loved this movie, but I'm not sure I'd want to watch the ending again. I'd recommend this cautiously to folks. You might respect the message, but this isn't a movie to be enjoyed.