14 January 2009

This is kinda crazy

Anthony Lane reviewed both of the movies I saw last week in a recent New Yorker, Valkyrie and Waltz with Bashir. And he says pretty much what I thought about the movies, but I'm going to blog about them anyway, starting with Valkyrie, because I want to think about Waltz with Bashir a little more, and do some research.

I did some cursory research on Valkyrie, enough to get the idea that Tom Cruise's character Claus von Stauffenberg was pretty much exactly in real life the way Cruise plays him in the movie, and that the plot is basically accurate. It's a pretty good conspiracy. Hitler signs the order for the reserve army to arrest all of S.S., assuming that the plot is coming from the S.S., in case he dies. Stauffenberg has to meet with Hitler (played so creepily by David Bamber) in order to get "Valkyrie," the name of the operation, signed. The best line in the movie is when of the reserve army officers tell another reserve army officer "We're the coup, idiot." (I may have added 'idiot'). The movie, and the conspiracy, are ultimately frustrating because the only thing that prevents the conspiracy from working is just bad luck. Hitler gets hit by von Stauffenberg's bomb, but only suffers minor injuries.

Overall, the movie is hard to take seriously, partly because it's all in English, except for the very beginning when we hear Tom Cruise's thoughts fade from German to English. This, along with the acting by most of the officers involved in the conspiracy, which, as Anthony Lane points out, resembles more anxious intellectuals then Nazis (emphasis on Nazis), gives the whole thing a feeling of silliness.

But I do disagree with Lane on one point. He concludes: "Stauffenberg set the noblest of moral examples, but what makes “Valkyrie” more depressing than exciting is that it forces you to ask, against your judgment, what, exactly, he achieved." I think the movie is kind of exciting, because you hope against hope that Hitler is dead until the very end, despite your rational side telling you that, obviously, unless Tom Cruise and director Bryan Singer decided to completely rewrite history, Hitler is still alive. But, more importantly, we know exactly what von Stauffenberg achieved, because he articulates at least once during the movie. He wants the world, and history, to know that not all Germans were going along with Hitler. Maybe he didn't save the world, but it's not insignificant to know that there were Germans who had the courage and freedom of thought to oppose Hitler. Right?

No comments: