Before The Fall

"Weak"

Before The Fall Review


I am officially done with World War II movies, especially if they center on Nazis. Sick and tired doesn't even begin to tell you where I am at with these movies. There are billions of other important events that haven't gotten a quarter of the attention Nazis have, and it won't stop until movies about 9/11 start coming out. Come on, guys, do a little research and I'm sure you'll find another time where humans were really evil to other humans. There's nothing that terrifying in Dennis Gansel's tepid Before the Fall, but I don't mean that as a compliment.

There have been movies made about Nazi dentists (Marathon Man), Nazi secretaries (Blind Spot), and even one about a Jewish Nazi (Henry Bean's astonishing The Believer). Now, we are treated to the story of a Nazi boxer. Well, not exactly. Friedrich (Max Riemelt) hasn't really decided where his intentions are; his father is lenient and could very well be a communist, but he lives in Berlin during the height of Nazism. His ability as a boxer gets him an invite to the Napola School, an institute that says it's for exceptional students but is actually a place that strips German youth of individuality and pity to draft more for the Nazi effort. While there, he makes friends with the sharp, poetic Albrecht (Tom Schilling), the son of a German Gauleiter (It's pretty much a mayor, but saying it in German makes me sound smarter). They form a tight bond, but Friedrich also finds support and acceptance with his boxing coach, Albrecht's father, and most of the other students. It's these two forces that are in constant battle throughout the film and that make for all the emotional and moral fireworks that make up most of its storyline.

If there is something to admire here, it's the acting of the two leads. Riemelt has talent and the ability to make an emotional scene glimmer in his face without making it melodramatic. Friedrich's decisions aren't new and don't cause much tension, but under Riemelt, they seem at least frustrating enough for us to want to keep watching. He finds his match in the mousy Schilling, who finds the bravery and honesty in Albrecht and doesn't cop out when his writing gets him into deep trouble. Truthfully, the film just doesn't care enough to do anything new with old material. If you can't foresee the decision Friedrich makes simply from reading this review, read it again. Every action is pointed, calculated, and, indeed, has been tested to make sure an audience will cheer. Furthermore, the so-called brutality isn't done with enough carnality or dead emotion to make us riveted by the enemy. We are simply asked to call on other films' brutality and the simple mention of the word "Nazi" as enough to make us scared. As if that's not enough, all of the sexual subtext between Albrecht and Friedrich is dismissed as a wandering feeling they might have gotten from drinking too much soda, and it never pays off in the slightest.

It's not like Gansel didn't have a chance to make a harrowing film here. If we had maybe seen the Nazi influence on him with as much passion as Albrecht's influence is given, the film would have had caused some genuine anxiety, but it never gives us that. The terror of the Holocaust is used as a backdrop, which is okay if it is used in a way to further more important parts of the story (such as the bond between father and son in Life is Beautiful). Instead, Before the Fall disregards the true horror of its surroundings just to put more emphasis on a limp story of good overcoming evil. I guarantee you nothing this cheesy happened during World War I.

Aka NaPolA, Napola - Elite für den Führer.



Before The Fall

Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 13th January 2005

Box Office Worldwide: $3.8M

Budget: $4.5M

Distributed by: Picture This! Entertainment

Production compaines: Seven Pictures, Olga Film GmbH, Constantin Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 12

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Friedrich Weimer, as Albrecht Stein, Jonas Jägermeyr as Christoph Schneider, Leon A. Kersten as Tjaden, as Heinrich Vogler, Joachim Bißmeier as Dr. Karl Klein, as Gauleiter Heinrich Stein, Alexander Held as Friedrichs Vater, Sissy Höfferer as Friedrichs Mutter, Michael Schenk as Josef Peiner, as Frau Stein (Albrechts Mutter), Michael Lerchenberg as Lateinlehrer

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