Taking Sides

Almost 50 years after his death, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler is still revered by classical music connoisseurs for recordings of unsurpassed spiritual intensity. A shadow lingers, however, since he remained in Germany during WWII, even performing for Hitler. Could any artist remain untainted by such association? Harvey Keitel's American army major certainly has his mind made up as he sets out to prove the incriminating links between Furtwängler and the toppled regime. Ronald Harwood approached the material with an open mind, and this adaptation of his own fact-based play allows Skarsgård's humbled maestro to maintain that he kept his distance from the Nazis, while serving his country as best he could from the podium. Opened out slightly to give a sense of bombed-out Berlin, this virtual two-hander is an engrossing encounter. Keitel looks more engaged than in ages as the bristling former insurance assessor unbowed by his subject's high-culture reputation. Skarsgård's internalised performance could hardly be more different in style, yet its rich portrait of the egotism, naivety and clouded thinking shaping a musical genius proves just as compelling. The film ends with a sublime fragment of concert footage from the archives.

Release details

Duration: 111 mins

Cast and crew

Director: István Szabó
Screenwriter: Ronald Harwood
Cast: Harvey Keitel
Stellan Skarsgård
Moritz Bleibtreu
Birgit Minichmayr
Ulrich Tukur
Hanns Zischler
Armin Rhode
August Zirner
Thomas Thieme
Robin Renucci
Frank Leboeuf
R Lee Ermey
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