German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel (Diana) returns to the era of his brutal film Downfall — source of that now meme-fied scene in which an insane Adolf Hitler goes on an extended rant to an audience of terrified underlings — with an intense dramatization of the true story of a failed attempt to assassinate the Führer in 1939. Carpenter, metalworker, and halfhearted member of a local Communist group Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) is arrested shortly after the bomb he hid at a Munich rally of Nazi leadership detonates 13 minutes after Hitler had vacated the premises, and he endures savage interrogation and torture (mostly offscreen, though what’s here is terrible to behold) by Nazi officers: they need to get a signed confession from Elser for Goebbels to use for propaganda purposes. As the film shifts back and forth in time between Elser’s interrogation and his life and radicalization from the early 1930s onward, a disturbing portrait is painted of just how easily an entire culture can change for the worst, almost beneath the notice of many ordinary citizens and with the complicity of too many: a few Nazi posters on a wall in Elser’s little countryside village in 1932 has become public castigation of Jews and small children turned into bullies in Hitler Youth uniforms only a few years later. 13 Minutes thus makes an excellent companion piece to the 2006 film about another patriotic anti-Nazi German of the era, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days — written, like this one, by Fred Breinersdorfer (who collaborated here with his daughter, Léonie-Claire Breinersdorfer). This is not a pleasant experience at all, but it is a provocative and necessary reminder of how the course of history can be altered by the concerted effort of people of conscience… and that sometimes it must be.
Like what you’re reading? Sign up for the daily digest email and get links to all the day’s new reviews and other posts.
shop to support Flick Filosopher
Independent film criticism needs your support to survive. I receive a small commission when you purchase almost anything at iTunes (globally) and at Amazon (US, Canada, UK):