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THE LAST TEN DAYS

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by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

grade: 8

Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s The Last Ten Days is the chronicle of the end of an era that would nevertheless have many consequences, even after many years. Sporadic ironic moments serve to soften the dramatic nature of the events. Particular care and elegance in the mise-en-scene make the film extraordinarily full of pathos.

Hitler’s last days

A very controversial film, The Last Ten Days. Yes, because, in fact, the film made by Georg Wilhelm Pabst in 1955 was initially accused by the most conservative of wanting to focus on anti-German feelings, while the left, at the same time, feared a dangerous return to Nazi ideas. In any case, the film is today considered one of the Austrian director’s most important works made after World War II. Based on the diary Ten Days to die by the American Nuremberg tribunal judge Michael Musmanno – who documented in particular Hitler’s last days – The Last Ten Days, along with It Happened on July 20th (released a few weeks later and focused on the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944) is considered one of the fundamental films directed by Pabst that closely observed certain dynamics regarding the National Socialist dictatorship. In order to keep as close to the facts as possible, the director also sought the advice, during production, of Traudl Junge, Adolf Hitler’s last secretary.

The Last Ten Days, therefore, fully reflects, in many ways, certain canons of films on the subject, in which, alongside those who allowed a tragedy of such significance to take place, there is still the figure of the so-called “good German”. On this occasion, therefore, this role was entrusted to the great Oskar Werner. He, in fact, is Captain Richard Wüst, who, realising Adolf Hitler’s madness, tries in every way to prevent the deaths of thousands of Berliners, at the moment when the Führer decides to flood the tunnels under the river Spree in order to halt the advance of his enemies. History, however, as we all know, took its sad course.

Georg Wilhelm Pabst, for his part, focused mainly on the figure of Hitler (for the occasion played by excellent Albin Skoda), on how he increasingly loses control as events inevitably turn against him. The Last Ten Days, therefore, is distinguished mainly by its claustrophobic atmospheres made so not only by the small and cramped spaces (the rooms of Hitler’s bunker, precisely), but also by the sinister shadows on the walls, by the prevalence of darkness over light, and by the close-ups of the protagonists’ faces. Perfectly in line with Pabst’s style and expressionist cinema, of course.

The last orders shouted to his military council. His wedding with Eva Braun (Lotte Tobisch). Moments of desperate loneliness inside an empty room. The Last Ten Days is the story of the end of an era that would nevertheless have many consequences, even after many years. Sporadic ironic moments serve to soften the drama of the events. Special care and elegance in the mise-en-scene make the film extraordinarily full of pathos. One must never forget the past. One must not allow certain dynamics to be repeated. Just as the voice-over on Oskar Werner’s close-up indicates at the end of the film, when everything is over and Berlin can finally start a new life.

Original title: Der letzte Akt
Directed by: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Country/year: Germany, Austria / 1955
Running time: 117’
Genre: historical, drama, war
Cast: Albin Skoda, Oskar Werner, Lotte Tobisch, Willy Krause, Erich Stuckmann, Erland Erlandsen, Curt Eilers, Leopold Hainisch, Otto Schmöle, Herbert Herbe, Hannes Schiel, Erik Frey, Otto Wögerer, Herta Angst, Helene Arcon, Elisabeth Epp, Hermann Erhardt, Guido Wieland, Gerd Zöhling, Ernst Waldbrunn, John Van Dreelen, Otto Loewe
Screenplay: Fritz Habeck, Erich Maria Remarque
Cinematography: Günther Anders
Produced by: Cosmopol-Film

Info: the page of The last three Days on iMDb; the page of The last three Days on the website of the Filmarchiv Austria