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Blindspot: Hitler's Secretary (PG)
Sony Pictures Classics
Official Site
Featuring: Traudl Junge
Interviewer: Andre Heller
Camera: Othmar Schmiderer
Sound: Othmar Schmiderer
Editor: Daniel Pohacker
Producers: Danny Krausz and Kurt Stocker

Rating: out of 5


Weíve all had at least one boss from hell, so what was it like working for Adolph Hitler? Itís easy to imagine Hitler was some sort of anal perfectionist who demanded his coffee cup remain filled at all times, but in this 90-minute interview with his secretary, Traudl Junge, these stereotypes are laid to rest. Hitler may have been a tyrant but he was not a tyrannical boss.

Jungeís recollections are interesting stuff, and for one recounting stories 50 years plus past, her memory is amazingly sharp. With vivid detail she shares memories of Hitler as not only a decent boss, but a nice man. ďI really liked him,Ē she says, and thatís really what weíre all waiting to hear. Arenít we all to this day still trying to make some sense out of the senseless genocide of six million Jews? Arenít we all still seeking some sort of tidbit to indicate Hitler was not a pathological monster, but a person with at least some glimmer of compassion and humanity? Junge does allude to this at times, particularly when describing Hitlerís fondness for his dog Blondie or sharing conversations with Hitler during those last terrible days in the bunker.

One well versed in Third Reich history has probably heard these stories before. Junge herself had served as a consultant in other World War II films, and this is an important point that bears mentioning. She was not a forgotten office worker plucked from obscurity to tell her amazing story decades after the fact, as the filmmakers would perhaps like one to believe. Her story has been recounted before elsewhere, many times over. But in fairness, this is the first time her life story and recollections of Hitler are the sole subject at hand. World War II history buffs will probably be disappointed by the lack of new revelations, but to take the film to task for this would be to overlook its deeper message. This is a documentary about much more than Hitlerís last days in the bunker. Itís more about how ordinary people sometimes fail to see the bigger picture all around them.

Jungeís life prior to Hitler did not indicate that any extraordinary encounter with history was preordained. The child of divorced parents, living in a home where money was never plentiful, she never thought twice about going out into the world to make a living when she finally was old enough to work. Though she dreamed of being a dancer, in wartime Germany her office skills were more sought after. Evidently, she was a very skilled secretary as, in her early twenties, she ended up working for Hitler himself at the height of the war.

It is the retelling of this period her life, as a primary witness to the truly banal side of evil, that makes this an amazing story. Junge may simply have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, but she remains haunted by feelings of guilt, regret, and complicity. ďHow do I forgive myself for being a naÔve child?Ē she asks, and her voice cracks with pain and sorrow.

This is a film you watch for the story but nothing more, in part because director Andre Heller leaves us little choice. Using a stationary camera, the only image in this entire 90-minute documentary is a fixed shot of Traudl Junge. Heller claims he deliberately wanted to avoid fancy camerawork and editing techniques and simply let this powerful story speak for itself. Thereís probably some truth to that, but it also creates the feeling Heller is something of a cheapskate. A little distraction, maybe some old photographs and an historical document or two could have made a pretty good film a whole lot better. But once you get past the no-frills approach, Jungeís memories leave an indelible impression.

óNancy Semin

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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