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BERLIN — Bernd Eichinger’s epic about the last days of Adolf Hitler, “Der untergang” (The Downfall), began shooting Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Pic, helmed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (“The Experiment”), stars Swiss thesp Bruno Ganz as Hitler.

Eichinger’s screenplay is based on Joachim Fest’s bestseller “Der untergang” as well as the book “Bis zur letzten stunde” (Until the Last Hour), by Melissa Mueller and Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge.

The $15 million film examines the fall of Berlin and the final days of World War II, including the suicides of Hitler, lover Eva Braun and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his family in the Reich Chancellery bunker.

“Untergang” is co-produced by pubcaster ARD; cast includes Juliane Koehler (“Nowhere in Africa”) as Braun and Ulrich Matthes as Goebbels. Thomas Kretschmann, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch, Ulrich Noethen and Heino Ferch also star.

St. Petersburg will double as the German capital as it falls to the Soviet Army. Pic will lense in the Russian city through September before moving to Munich, where it will shoot at Bavaria Studios in November.

Eichinger’s Constantin Film plans to release “Untergang” domestically Sept. 16, 2004.

Bavarian regional subsidy FFF Bayern has ponied up $2.26 million in funding, with an additional $565,000 from Bayerischen Bankenfonds (BBF), a film investment fund backed by HypoVereinsbank, Bayern LB and Reuschel Bank.