The film begins cold: the elderly woman in frame speaks lucidly of pity, self-forgiveness and a 'greater cause'. The late Traudl Junge was dying of cancer in spring 2001 when she agreed to discuss, for the first time, her experiences as secretary to Adolf Hitler from 1942 until his suicide in 1945. Director and interviewer Heller and cameraman Schmiderer whittled down some 10 hours of footage into this spare, transfixing documentary. No voice-over, no archival footage, just the guilt-ridden Junge in her Munich apartment recalling a 'kindly old gentleman' troubled by digestive irregularities and devoted to his dog. The story starts as Gothic fairy tale - the young woman 'taken through a dark forest' to the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's East Prussian HQ - and ends in surreal dread, as Junge and her co-workers in the Führer's bunker listen to artillery assaults overhead and sort out the best suicide methods. The minimalist approach leaves an unsettling ambiguity about how the bewildered octogenarian regard sthe 20-something Third Reich helpmate. When the film-makers give Junge the chance to watch herself on tape, her dismay is evident. 'All these little stories sound so banal,' she says, freshly ashamed. 'I'd rather not describe these things so clearly.' The cumulative effect of being alone with her face and voice for 90 minutes is the magnification of an eye flicker or of the smallest shift in pitch, as her testimony hits notes in turns sorrowful, aggrieved, defensive and matter of fact. But the black cloud of solipsistic remorse never breaks - a useless, deathless guilt, still questing for a signifier. JWin.
André Heller, Othmar Schmiderer