13 Minutes: The story of a man who rose to fame because of what he didn't do
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2015: Oliver Hirschbiegel continues to rummage through the least-known parts of his country’s history via the story of Elser, a man who wanted to kill Hitler
13 Minutes [+see also:
film profile] by Oliver Hirschbiegel, shown out of competition at Berlin, is a film that immerses us in the “13 minutes that could have changed history”. The main character, Georg Elser (Christian Friedel, the poet from Amour fou [+see also:
film profile] by Jessica Hausner), is a simple German artisan who plotted a bomb attack against Hitler in 1938 in Munich, but he missed his target by 13 minutes because the Fuhrer’s agenda had changed slightly that day. Hirschbiegel is known internationally for Downfall [+see also:
interview: Bernd Eichinger
interview: Joachim Fest
interview: Oliver Hirschbiegel
film profile] (2004), about Hitler’s last days in his bunker, and in this film he continues to investigate one of the most repulsive historical figures ever known, as he does in the majority of his movies. Once again, he uses a very distinctive and interesting angle, entering a great historical tale through the back door.
With this film he once again uses a device whereby he tells the story through a narrator and a factual witness, here achieved ingeniously by having none other than Elser himself in an endless interrogation while his lips don’t speak at all. Despite his silence before the agents of the Third Reich, we watch, from his point of view, his personal story and past, up to the moment when, alone and trembling like a leaf, he plants the bomb where Hitler should have been.
We discover through the flashbacks that Georg Elser had somewhat of a “red” background (although his close ties with communists and their involvement in his act remain vague), but he is, above all, a lover of life: a musician with a good heart and a lover of women, especially one named Elsa... These memories have a pastoral effect because we have adopted the point of view of this “ordinary hero” who is accused of a crime that did not succeed in coming to fruition. Yet from his prison cell and torture room, he glorifies the happy moments spent with his friends and his lover, up to the point where the love story with her almost supersedes the main story in the film, that of the man who could have changed everything were it not for a few minutes, and who thus remains anonymous.
The interest of Hirschbiegel’s film hinges on this very insistence on the contrast between the hero’s banal life and the extraordinary nature of what he single-handedly tried to achieve, alone, without being guided by any ideology and without ever seeing himself as one of those “fighters” that Hitler tried to galvanise around the Reich. Elser was a true pacifist at heart, who had the courage to take on the task at hand and pay the price without saying a word. He was a man of the people who simply wanted to be free, without any great displays of bravery and without crowning himself with a dogma. He was a German resistant.
13 Minutes comes out in Germany at the beginning of April, in France in September, and in many other countries. International sales of the film are handled by Beta Cinema.
(Translated from French)