Alone in Berlin

Decades after the end of Nazi rule in Germany, films continue to depict the days when Hitler ruled, and the people “Seig Heil”ed one another at meetings, even when friends came over to visit. Everyone was terrorized by police. Alone in Berlin, directed by Vincent Perez, provides a fascinating exception to the brainwashing, relating a true story with some embellishment. One day Otto Quangel (played by Brendan Gleeson) receives a letter from the government. He knows the contents without opening the letter, but his wife Anna (Emma Thompson) does anyway. Their son had been killed in the latest battle of the war, sometime in 1940. Both are grief stricken. But Otto is so angry that he decides to spread his opposition to the regime by writing messages on postcards (“tweets” would describe the content today). Otto and Anna then distribute more than 200 cards all over Berlin (filming is in the town of Görlitz, Saxony) for the next two years. Detective work by Berlin Police Officer Escherich (Daniel Brühl) identifies the pattern of cards and awaits the inevitable mistake by the card distributors, angering SS Commander Prall (Mikael Persbrandt) because he does not stop the flow sooner. The ending will seem obvious as soon as the first card is left on a stairway, but there is a Hollywood-type surprise in the climax. The film is based on a novel written in 1947 by Hans Fallada, who read the Gestapo file of Otto and Elise Hampel, and was translated into English as Every Man Dies Alone (2009). The Political Film Society has nominated Alone in Berlin for best film exposé of 2017 and best film on human rights of 2017. MH