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Show Time for Hitler and Germany

MOVIE REVIEW
My Führer (2007)

Helge_schneider_bath
First Run Features

Perhaps no figure in history has been more endless psychoanalyzed than Adolf Hitler. The natural human drive to comprehend the incomprehensible has lead to a rash of theories and studied observations that struggle to explain how such a blindly devoted cult of personality emerged around the man.

Into that realm leaps “My Führer,” a work of speculative fiction from writer-director Dani Levy that posits Hitler as, above all, a softie. As played by Helge Schneider, he’s a cripplingly depressed figure with lots of unresolved parental issues. When, towards the end of the Third Reich, he appears headed for a total breakdown, Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) imports Jewish professor Adolf Israel Grünbaum (the late, great Ulrich Mühe) from a concentration camp to snap him out of it in time to make a big speech.

Totally concept driven, the picture turns on the humor inherent in the notion of a Jewish man struggling to help his chief antagonist. While the fresh irony permeates the first few scenes between Grünbaum and Hitler, eventually the novelty wears off and it becomes clear that Mr. Levy has made little more than a sitcom-y rehash of an age-old shrink-patient premise. The movie flirts with the darker place the narrative demands, as Grünbaum comes close to carrying out every Jew’s most cherished revenge fantasy. But each time it does so, Mr. Levy pulls back, opting instead for such convoluted gimmicks as a distraught Hitler crawling into bed with Grünbaum and his wife — a concept that sounds much funnier than it plays.

The notion of a weak-willed Hitler serving as a mouthpiece for his devious advisors has some symbolic value, as innumerable contemporary heads of state (including one here in the United States — I believe they call him “W.”) have faced similar charges. But Mr. Levy doesn’t seem interested in producing an allegory or, really, anything beyond a lighthearted comedy full of whimsy and some seriously underexplored subtext. Mühe brings his characteristically intense dignity to one of his last roles, and he deserved the chance to go further with it.

MY FÜHRER

Opens on Aug. 14 in New York and on Oct. 2 in Los Angeles.

Written and directed by Dani Levy; director of photography, Carl F. Koschnick; music by Niki Reiser; production designer, Christian Eisele; produced by Stefan Arndt; released by First Run Features. In German, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Helge Schneider (Hitler), Ulrich Mühe (Adolf Grünbaum), Sylvester Groth (Joseph Goebbels), Adriana Altaras (Elsa Grünbaum), Katja Riemann (Eva Braun), Stefan Kurt (Albert Speer) and Ulrich Noethen (Heinrich Himmler).

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