Before the Fall
Look, man. I’m right in front of you. You don’t have to yell.

Theatrical Release Date: 01/13/2005 (Germany), 03/10/2006 (USA)
Director: Dennis Gansel
Cast: Max Riemelt, Tom Schilling

Continuing my recent spate of intense foreign cinema, I checked out a screening for “Before the Fall (Elite für den Führer)”.

Released in its native Germany in 2004, the only reason I can fathom for it not being nominated for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award is that “Downfall” and the brilliant performance by Bruno Ganz came out the same year.

Since each country can only nominate one film, often other great films are left out. This is most definitely one of those times.

“Before the Fall” is centered on two boys, Friedrich and Albrecht, who attend a Napola in 1942. A Napola is an elite school for the training of would-be Nazi Governors of foreign countries. By training the elite ahead of time, Germany figured that as they conquered countries around the world, they would have leadership ready to step in.

Of course, that they lost the war and actually ended up sending half of these “elite” kids to die in the final throes of WWII is just a side note.

Back to the film, Friedrich (Max Riemelt) is from humble lineage. He is a talented boxer though and he is invited to the Napola by one of its professors who sees him box. Albert (Tom Schilling) is the son of a prominent Nazi and, as such, treated with kid gloves and given loads of latitude.

Albert doesn’t see the need for Germany and its Nazis to be so cruel or at war at all, he thinks there is a better way to conduct themselves. Friedrich doesn’t really know any better and only sees that the Nazis can offer him a lifestyle that was inaccessible as the son of a factory worker.

Despite these differences, the boys become best friends and help each other out as they train and learn at the school.

I don’t want to give much more away. The film, like most others, is best seen with only a small bit of introduction. Needless to say, probably, is that I recommend everyone who likes foreign films to see this film.

Directed by Dennis Gansel, “Before the Fall” is expertly shot and does a nice job of creating a film about training Nazis that humanizes the kids who are being trained. My ability to empathize about becoming a member of Hitler’s elite was greatly increased due to this film.

The problem with this film, I think, is that Gansel was so preoccupied with getting to the specific events that will affect Friedrich and Albert’s lives that the camaraderie of the other students is not touched upon enough.

I know it might sound strange but I liken this film to “Dead Poets Society”, only set in 1942 Germany. What “Before the Fall” failed to do was create a strong enough bond between the two main characters and their roommates. I think this lessened the emotional impact the film was able to make.

Still, “Before the Fall” is a wonderful, well-crafted film and worth some of your hard earned dollars. I’m awarding it a 4 out of 5 and hope it finds a theater near all of you soon.