Adapting Hans Fallada’s German resistance novel for the silver screen, Vincent Perez’ Alone In Berlin recreates the plot but none of the drama.
Little Man, What Now?by Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
After a Brit’s adaptation of Suite Française, we now have a Frenchman bringing to life Hans Fallada’s 1947 tale of Nazi resistance Alone In Berlin. Based on a real-life case, it tells the story of Otto (Brendan Gleeson) and Anna Quangel (Emma Thompson) who upon the death of their only son on the French front turn resistant, writing and distributing postcards denouncing Hitler’s lies. With Nazis on the ground floor, informants in the basement, as well as a retired judge and an elderly Jewish neighbour, the house on Jablonskistrasse is a microcosm of life under the Third Reich. But while the Quangels embark on their almost absurd act of resistance, which sees nearly every postcard handed in to the police (all but 18), their new criminality affords them a freedom not to follow the status quo of Heil Hitlers and Nazi ideology. The success of their mission comes in the form of police inspector Escherich (Daniel Brühl) who is the only one to read all of their letters and who, caught between their persuasion and SS Officer Prall (Mikael Persbrandt) passes the letters on in his own act of resistance. With quietly affecting but unambitious performances from Gleeson and Thompson, there’s an inescapable gloss of fakery that hangs over the production like the inevitability of death by guillotine – from the English language dialogue and the German accents to the period trams and stage-set streets. It’s a passable adaptation of Jeder Stirbt Für Sich Allein, but so thoroughly unambitious it doesn’t fit with Fallada’s rebellious act of literature at all.
Alone In Berlin is now showing at the 66th Berlin Film Festival