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The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma(2008)
Set in 1945 during the Red Army invasion of Berlin. Women are victims of rape and devastation; one of them is Anonyma, who had been a journalist and photographer. In her desperation, she decides to look for an officer who can protect her. She meets a Russian officer Andrej - an encounter which develops into a complex symbiotic relationship that forces them to remain enemies until the bitter end.
For more about The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma and the The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma Blu-ray release, see the The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 26, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Max Färberböck
Writers: Max Färberböck, Catharina Schuchmann
Starring: Nina Hoss, Yevgeni Sidikhin, Irm Hermann, Rüdiger Vogler, Ulrike Krumbiegel, Rolf Kanies
» See full cast & crew
The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 26, 2010
Based on the once controversial book "Eine Frau in Berlin" (A Woman In Berlin), German director Max Farberbock's "The Downfall of Berlin - Anonyma" (2008) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Metrodome Video. The supplemental features on the disc include an interview with director Max Farberbock, Making Of featurette, and Behind the Scenes. In German, with imposed English subtitles. Region-Free.
Max Farberbock's film tells the story of an ordinary German woman (Nina Hoss, Yella) who believed in Adolph Hitler. She never doubted him, not once. As a journalist, she lived in Moscow, Paris and London, but came back home because she wanted to be part of it. She wanted to see her country become what Hitler promised it would. When the war finally started and Warsaw, Paris and Brussels quickly fell, she could hardly contain her excitement. It was happening, right before her eyes.
Then everything suddenly changed. The Red Army proved a lot more resilient than Hitler's generals had predicted, and key battlegrounds were lost. The excitement quickly disappeared. The woman felt it, Germany felt it. When the Red Army eventually entered Berlin, the woman knew that her life was hanging by a thread.
She struck a deal with the Soviets - they could have her body but not her mind. They raped her time after time, but she survived. Other women were not as fortunate. They were raped by the Soviets and then killed. This is why the woman prayed and lived each day as if it was her last one.
A Soviet colonel (Yevgeni Sidikhin) approached the woman. He saw something in her that reminded him about his wife. The Germans killed her when they invaded his country, but he wasn't looking for revenge. He only wanted to remember how to love. The woman felt sorry for him.
They kept seeing each other until the Reichstag fell. The colonel gave the woman food, clothes, security. Those around her felt safer. Other women also became friends with the Soviets. Few of them were as respectful as the colonel, but the women did not complain. They were alive - and that was all that mattered.
Eventually, the colonel was reported to his superiors. Someone told the woman that they were sending him to Siberia. He had befriended a fascist and his comrades were angry. Before he disappeared, the woman met the colonel one last time. She thanked him for letting her know him and then wished him good luck.
The Downfall of Berlin - Anonyma is inspired by "Eine Frau in Berlin" (A Woman in Berlin), an enormously controversial book that was published in Germany during the mid 50s. At the time, the author of the book chose not to reveal her identity because she feared for her safety.
Times are different now and a lot of what was once controversial isn't anymore. The crimes the Soviets committed after they entered Berlin are well documented and so are the recollections of those who survived them. So, there is nothing controversial about The Downfall of Berlin - Anonyma either. What makes the film worth seeing is the unique look it offers at these tragic events, as well as the honesty with which it explains them.
All of the main characters in The Downfall of Berlin - Anonyma suffer. At one point, winners and losers come together, forgiving and consoling each other. The closer they get, the less honor, loyalty and country mean to them. Eventually, they begin to realize that their lives have been wasted. According to the German woman whose story the film tells, this painful realization is precisely what inspired the Soviets to rape and kill the women of Berlin. They had won the war but lost more than anyone else who fought it.
Nina Hoss is very impressive as Anonyma. Her transformation from a passionate fascist who has bought into Hitler's self-destructive idealism to a disillusioned woman praying to survive is terrific. Evgeny Sidikhin also shines as the Soviet colonel who realizes that his life has become just as cheap and meaningless as Anonyma's.
In 2009, The Downfall of Berlin - Anonyma was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. It also won the Best International Feature award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Max Farberbock's The Downfall of Berlin - Anonyma arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Metrodome Video.
This is a very strong high-definition transfer. Fine object detail is great, particularly during the numerous close-ups where the camera studies the faces of the main protagonists. Clarity varies - obviously, due to the manner in which the film was shot - and during some of the darker indoor scenes it is rather difficult to see perfectly well everything that takes place on the screen. Contrast levels also vary, but, again, the numerous mild fluctuations that you would notice while viewing the film are intentional. The color-scheme is very unique - and very effective. Grays, light blues, deep yellows and browns are the prevalent colors. Some minor noise reductions have been applied, but the film's grain structure is very much in tact, and a number of key scenes look absolutely gorgeous. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are not a serious issue of concern. Neither is ringing and banding. Additionally, I did not detect any disturbing cuts, warps, scratches, dirt, or stains or report in this review. Finally, when blown through a digital projector, the film looks remarkably stable and tight.
Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. There are, however, a couple of PAL-encoded trailers that are included on it. The good news is that they are not "forced", which means that you will be able to skip them and get to the disc's main menu without a problem. For the record, I have tested the disc on a Region-A PS3 and three other SAs.
The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: German/Russian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, the English subtitles are imposed and cannot be turned off. Also, they appear inside the image frame.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very strong. The bass is powerful and punchy, the surround channels intelligently used, and the high frequencies not overdone. The opening 10-15 minutes, in particular, are very impressive, boasting some terrific surround effects. Furthermore, the dialog is crisp, clean and exceptionally easy to follow. Award-winning composer Zbigniew Preisner's music score also sounds lovely, especially during the second half of the film. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hiss to report in this review.
The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc are in PAL. Therefore, if you reside in North America, or another region where PAL is not supported, you must have a Region-Free player capable of converting PAL to NTSC, or a TV set capable of receiving native PAL data, in order to view them.
Making of - a standard featurette sowing raw footage from the shooting of the film. Director Max Farberbock and producer Gunther Rohrbach, as well as selected cast members address their involvement in the film and the the story it tells. In German, with imposed English subtitles. (21 min).
Behind the Scenes - additional raw footage from the shooting of the film. Once again, numerous comments from cast and crew members are included. In German and Russian, with imposed English subtitles (17 min).
Interview - a short interview with Director Max Farberbock in which he addresses a series of questions about his film, the unique story it tells, the film's production history, etc. In German, with imposed English subtitles. (8 min).
The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Max Farberbock's The Downfall of Berlin - Anonyma is a powerful, genuinely unsettling and immensely brave film. It is terrifically acted as well. I particularly liked the fact that the film did not attempt to deliver the mandatory politically correct message most every other film about WW2 nowadays has. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of British distributors Metrodome Video, looks and sounds excellent. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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