Wednesday 6 May 2009

Valkerie, accents and the Germans...

I wasn't expecting Valkyrie to be good at all - the main bug-bear was the cast of Brits & Americalanders playing Germans, while using their native accents ... something which went very wrong with the movie The Bunker, where German soldiers all sound like they're either from Lahndahn, or The Norf.

Then, while not trying to be part of the "only as good as your last movie" brigade, Superman Returns (Singer's previous movie) was a complete load of pish ... plus, let's be honest, Scientology is a huge red arrow that points away from Tom Cruise's actual acting talent ... and the tabloid coverage of him, his missus and their celebrity spawn doesn't help much either.

So - with sights set decidedly low - I ultimately thought that Valkyrie was pretty good over all. I'll take events depicted with a pinch of salt - Hollywood, afterall, was the gang of pretty boys who stole the Enigma machine apparently (when in fact it was the British ... bloody U-571) ... ... anyway, I was quite surprised to find that this movie was really quite tense - even though you know what happens (well, most of it anyway - the state of modern education is shocking) - and yes, you can even get past Cruise the Couch Jumper, and find Cruise the Actor instead.

The actor who was so good in Born On The Fourth Of July, the actor who was gripping in Eyes Wide Shut - that guy is on screen, although admittedly having an eye patch and only two fingers and a thumb also help add to the illusion.

Mind you, it is a bit distracting when Eddie Izzard crops up and gets all shouty in the bathroom as it became eerily close to some of his (hilarious, by the way) stand-up comedy. I was half-expecting a lampooned James Mason as the voice of God routine.

What wasn't as distracting, however, was the actor's native accents ... well, not as distracting as I'd been expecting - but it was still right there in your face ... along with Bill Nighy's trade mark twitching.

Tension, though, is the film's strongest suit, and it was during the scenes showing the preparation, process and failed execution of the plans which provided the most wear to my seat's proverbial edge.

However, I recently (and finally) got to see the German language film Downfall - the meticulously detailed, decidedly non-Hollywood account of Hitler's final days in his doom-laden bunker. Now, quite frankly, that's how it should be done. The main problem with Valkyrie, is that it's decidedly Hollywood - perhaps not as Hollywood as say the likes of History-raping U-571, but it's all quite flashy and pretty looking. Downfall is about the darkest time of the darkest era in Germany's history, made by Germans and in the German language. It feels authentic, as well as being both endlessly gripping and morbidly fascinating.

Valkyrie on the other hand, surprisingly enjoyable as it is, is like History by Coca Cola ... History with a Pinch of Salt ... still, at least it's not the usual sort of 'Historic' garbage peddled by Tinseltown.

On a final note, perhaps it's best for each country to make war movies about their own side - it always feels vaguely inaccurate, or even wide-of-the-mark when one country covers another country's side in a battle. The Americans make (and have made many great ones) war movies about American boys fighting the bad guys ... but if I want a movie about the German side, I want it in German and made by Germans - and you know what, I want the same for the other countries. Quite simply, you can't truly represent someone else's side without being a part of that very culture.

Valkyrie, as I've said, is a decent movie. But Downfall's native viewpoint feels like something you could legitimately show in schools, and perhaps it has been. I know I watched Schindler's List twice in High School - once in History and once in Religious Studies - but I don't imagine any kids will be seeing Valkyrie in class anytime soon (although with the current state of education - thanks Blair, Brown, Balls et al - I wouldn't be surprised if they did), but I would fully support them getting a look-see at the bloody brilliant Downfall.

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