Imagine a world in which Paris was razed to the ground. It nearly happened on 25 August 1944: as the city stood on the verge of liberation, an SS general named Dietrich von Choltitz was mulling over an order from Adolf Hitler to detonate a series of explosives that would kill millions and destroy landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Veteran German director Volker Schlöndorff’s well-acted though fairly bland two-hander fictionalises these events, imagining a tense extended dialogue between Von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup) and a Swedish diplomat (André Dussolier) trying to talk him out of Hitler’s plan. In reality, the duo had a number of exchanges over different days, and surely not with quite the ticking-time-bomb tautness that Schlöndorff is after here (and which he rarely attains).
The film’s origins as a play (written by Cyril Gely and starring the same actors) are always evident. Despite Schlöndorff’s attempts to give the movie some pop through widescreen lensing and noirish lighting, it’s visually staid – very ‘filmed theatre’. Fortunately, both Arestrup and Dussolier are captivating presences. They’ve clearly lived with these roles and know how to milk the two men’s moral discourse for in-the-moment electricity that, sadly, never accumulates into anything truly special.
|Release date:||Friday November 14 2014|
Cast and crew