ELSER / 13 MINUTES, Germany, 2015. Starring Christian Friedel, Katharina Schuttler, Johan Von Bulow, Burghardt Klaussner. Directed by Oliver Hirschbirgel. 110 minutes. (No rating available).
Oliver Hirschbirgel’s, Downfall, showing the last days of Hitler, was a great international success though causing some controversy in Germany with its picture of Hitler, indicating some more humane aspects of his behaviour. Hirschbirgel had already made quite an impression with his feature debut, The Experiment.
After several years making films abroad, The Invasion and the portrait of Princess Diana, Diana, both of which were received, he returned to Germany to make this film about the era of National Socialism.
The subject is Georg Elser, a man in his 30s, seemingly quiet, interested in folk music, a touch of the womaniser and his work in the town in the Jura Mountains. The film opens with his setting up a bomb in a hall in Munich, timed to assassinate Hitler as he made an address. It is 1938.
However, the attempt to kill Hitler was a failure, with Hitler leaving the room 13 minutes earlier than anticipated. Elser is caught, interrogated with torture, threatened by bringing his lover into the interrogation, but his never giving up any information. Hitler thought that it was a conspiracy and would not believe that it was the work of one man – with Else spending some time explaining the bomb and his skills to the interrogators.
The film offers flashbacks to his character, his mother, life in the town, his music, the clashes with National Socialists, the birth of the child and its death. Elser was condemned to Dachau and was executed just before the liberation of the camp.
Christian Friedel gives a convincing performance and the film makes the point that while attention is given to Von Stauffenberg and his attempt to kill Hitler, and people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer are held in high regard, with films made about Sophie Scholl and others who resisted, Elser was often considered something of an eccentric loner. This film rehabilitates his memory.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released 23rd July.