13 Minutes (2015) dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel

 

132bminutes

This film is carried by the sheer magnetism of Christian Friedel. He is utterly believable as Georg Elser- skilled craftsmen, good-natured and passionate partner, patriotic German and almost-successful assassin of Hitler save for thirteen minutes.

The movie brilliantly interposes scenes of Elser’s idyllic country life with his interrogation by Police Chief Arthur Nebe, a mostly good man on the wrong side of history.

Watching this with the knowledge of how WWII played out, the interrogation was laced with ripe irony. In particular, I liked this bit at the beginning when we are first introduced to Police Chief Arthur Nebe.

How do you think your wicked assassination attempt ended? We mourn the death of seven innocent people for which you are responsible. Seven men and women, including a waitress, married with two children. A marching band flautist, leaving behind a wife and teenage daughter. What did these people do to you? Who gave you the right to kill them? Don’t you have anything to say to the relatives? Not a single word?

Another sobering moment touched on the problem of evil as Elser struggles to reconcile the failure of his assassination attempt with his belief:

I changed my conviction. I’m certain my plan would have succeeded, if my conviction had been right. Since it hasn’t succeeded, I’m convinced it wasn’t meant to succeed and that my conviction was wrong.

Despite the subject matter, it is an easy film to watch and love. It is at heart a sentimental, sappy film, bordering on almost cloying with a sympathetic interrogator (Nebe), secretary and guard as well as flashback scenes of Elser and Elsa’s romance. There is a marked absence of heavy-handed moralizing; issues are woven in lightly with a touch-and-go style.

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