Original German: Der Tunnel
(Rats. I tried to post this yesterday but the terminal timed out. Then, it would have been posted from Berlin: very apropos! Instead, you get it from Leipzig.)
This is the true story of some guys that make an elaborate attempt to help loved ones to escape from East Berlin into the western sector shortly after the wall was built in 1961. The plan is to chip out a tunnel (24 feet deep and a football field and a half long) connecting the cellars of abandoned buildings on each side. Self-sacrifice is a continuous thread through the plot fragmentation elements of trust-betrayed, mistrust misplaced, and cloak and dagger mingled with various physical setbacks. It depicts angst and sehnsucht in a manner that German film-makers have always been the masters. You come to truly love some of the characters.
Besides the merit of its superb quality, the movie should be seen in order to gain an intuition into that period of history. Some documentary footage is interleaved, and other famous scenes are recreated.
It is truly amazing, and to our shame, that the USA joined forces with the USSR against Germany, which had seen through the cosmic evil of the communist regime long before American politicians pretended to. Even at the end, American forces could have joined forces with the Germans to drive the Soviets back to their shadows, as Patton wanted to; preferably all the way back to the Soviets’ favorite sewage disposal region for flushing whole nations down the memory hole: Siberia. Instead, Eisenhower stood by and allowed those monsters to occupy Berlin, leading to unspeakable outrages that went on for fifty years.
Unfortunately, there are a couple weaknesses to the film as well.
1. A subplot involving the girl tunneler Fritzi, her mother, and a five minute stand does not add anything to the main arc, wastes time in a movie already pushing the time-limit for American tastes, and gives the occasion for the obligatory voyeuristic scene which is frankly painful to have to watch even granting everything else.
2. There is a shockingly in-your-face blaspheming use of our Savior’s name. However, we need to look at this a little closer. The two times it is spoken, it is in English, by the Italian-American in the group. The other times, it is rendered in the English sub-title even though it is not present in the German: twice, for the muttered German “man man man,” and once, for “Mensch.” In other words, every single instance of blasphemy is associated with either the American character or viewer. Whether this means that this kind of behavior has, via the images of Hollywood, become associated as typically American, to which European film-makers give a nod in the misguided belief that this will help broaden the appeal of their production to the lucrative American screen; or if it is actually explicitly on the advice of subversive and blasphemous forces in Hollywood in connection with negotiations for release, is something that needs to be investigated by someone knowing how.
These two defects are unfortunate, since without them the movie would actually be a good film even for children, combining entertainment with history– though it may be too tense for some children anyhow.