Review: ‘The Last Battle’

"The Last Battle" recreates the Third Reich's final Berlin fortnight via a painstaking mix of survivor testimonies, newsreel footage and well-mounted fiction sequences. Nature of pic and presence of Australia's SBS as funding source points to tube play and good ancillary, though fests may want to feature this item as an example of the ever-mutating docu form.

Made-for-TV docudrama “The Last Battle” recreates the Third Reich’s final Berlin fortnight via a painstaking mix of survivor testimonies, newsreel footage and well-mounted fiction sequences. Nature of pic and presence of Australia’s SBS as funding source points to tube play and good ancillary, though fests may want to feature this item as an example of the ever-mutating docu form.

Vet tube helmer Hans-Christop Blumenberg enlists German thesps on the order of Irm Hermann, Florian Lukas and Christian Red to act out vignettes remembered by surviving supporting players such as nurses, radio announcers, support staff, soldiers from both sides, and other participants both central and peripheral. With Hitler glimpsed only from a distance as the battle rages across the city, pic becomes a kind of anti-“Downfall” as it illuminates actions both brave and ignoble. Redl is fine as infantry General Hans Krebs, with Lukas’ bunker telephone operator not dissimilar to David McCallum’s plucky wireless jockey in “A Night to Remember.” Schilling is staff officer Horst Bandmann, Bergmann essays bunker survivor Major Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven, Muehe and Hermann are nurses. Tech package impressively sells you-are-there feel.

The Last Battle

Germany

Production

A Cinecentrum production. (International sales: SBS TV, Artarmon NSW, Australia.) Produced by Ulrich Lenze. Directed, written by Hans-Christoph Blumenberg.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W), Daniel Koppelkamm; editor, Florentine Bruck; music, Nikolaus Glowna, Siggi Mueller; set designer, Erik Ruffler. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Documentaries of the World), Aug. 28, 2005. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Tom Schilling, Anna Maria Muehe, Tim Bergmann, Christian Redl, Irm Hermann, Florian Lukas.
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