Hitler: The Rise of Evil
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|Hitler: The Rise of Evil|
|Distributed by||Alliance Atlantis|
|Directed by||Christian Duguay|
|Produced by||John Ryan
|Written by||John Pielmeier
G. Ross Parker
|Music by||Normand Corbeil|
|Editing by||Sylvain Lebel
Stephen R. Myers
Henk Van Eeghen
|Release date||18 May 2003|
|Running time||179 min.|
Hitler: The Rise of Evil is a Canadian TV miniseries in two parts, directed by Christian Duguay and produced by Alliance Atlantis. It explores Adolf Hitler's rise and his early consolidation of power during the years after World War I and focuses on how the embittered, politically fragmented and economically buffeted state of German society following the war made that ascent possible. The film also focuses on Ernst Hanfstaengl's influence on Hitler's rise to power. The miniseries, which premiered simultaneously in May 2003 on CBC in Canada and CBS in the United States, received two Emmy awards, for Art Direction and Sound Editing.
The film's subplot follows the struggles of Fritz Gerlich, a German journalist who opposes the rising Nazi Party. He is portrayed as to fulfill the essence of the quotation disputably attributed to Edmund Burke, which is displayed at the beginning and at the end of the film:
- "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
The film has been criticized for its many inaccuracies in portraying Hitler's temperament and related events, to the point that it has been likened to fiction.
The opening of the film shows us a montage of Adolf Hitler's life from the years 1899-1907. The 10-year old Hitler (Thomas Sangster) is shown to be arrogant and disobedient. He has a stern, ill-tempered father, Alois Hitler (Ian Hogg), and a doting mother, Klara Hitler (Stockard Channing), who indulges his dreams of becoming a great artist. One day, his father dies of a heart attack but the young Hitler shows no empathy or concern. Seven years later, a 17-year old Hitler (Simon Sullivan) applies unsuccessfully to the Vienna Arts Academy but is told he lacks the talent to become an artist. Following his mother’s death, he moves to Vienna permanently but is unable to find work and soon becomes destitute and homeless. Influenced by the city’s prevalent anti-semitism, young Hitler becomes convinced that the Jews and immigrants are to blame for his misfortunes.
In 1914, the now adult Hitler (Robert Carlyle) leaves Austria for Munich and joins the German army to fight in the First World War. After surviving a major battle, he is promoted to the rank of Corporal but his intense fanaticism and virulent anti-semitic and anti-Marxist rhetoric make him unpopular with the other soldiers, who routinely ridicule and ostracize him. After Hitler displays bravery during one particular battle, he emotionally blackmails his Jewish commanding officer into awarding him an Iron Cross, claiming to be the only soldier in the regiment to defend him against anti-semitism. During the last days of the war, when Germany is in retreat, Hitler is blinded by a gas attack and is recovering in a hospital when he learns that the German Army has surrendered in the war. Hearing the news, he suffers an emotional breakdown, regains his eyesight and vows to dedicate his life toward reversing the outcome of the war.
Hitler returns to Munich in 1919 to find it in the midst of political revolution. Still employed by the army, he is assigned to report on the activities of the newly formed political parties in the city. After attending a meeting of the German Worker’s party, he is recruited by the party’s leader, Anton Drexler (Robert Glenister), to give speeches and organise its propaganda activities. Hitler’s speeches repeat the same themes over and over: that Germany has been betrayed by the leaders who surrendered in the last war as well as the Communists, Jews and immigrants who are destroying the country from within. Gradually, his popularity as a fiery orator significantly expands the party’s membership and attracts the attention of wealthy entrepreneur, Ernst Hanfstaengl (Liev Schreiber), who encourages Hitler to refine his image and create a symbol for the party - which Hitler does, by cropping his facial hair into his trademark toothbrush moustache, and making the Swastika the party's official emblem, respectively. Hansftaengl also puts Hitler in contact with the city’s elites; among them, decorated war hero, Herman Goering (Chris Larkin); who help the party raise funds, allowing Hitler to buy his own newspaper and hire the SA (Stormtroopers), led by the militant Captain Röhm (Peter Stormare), to act as his personal security and also promote the party in the streets through agitation and violence against political opponents and Jews. The party’s new direction toward the elites and away from its working class roots upsets Drexler, who wants the party to merge with another right wing group, a decision Hitler strongly opposes. Following a tense confrontation, Hitler threatens to resign the party unless Drexler agrees to step down as leader. Drexler acquiesces, and in 1921, Hitler becomes Fuhrer of the newly named National Socialist Party.
In 1923, Germany’s economic situation has worsened and the Bavarian Commissar, Gustav von Kahr (Terence Harvey), bans Hitler from holding rallies, as he believes the party’s agitation is causing further unrest around the countryside. Hansfaengl introduces Hitler to Fritz Gerlich (Matthew Modine), a renowned journalist and Von Kahr’s speechwriter. Hitler hopes he can persuade Gerlich to convince Kahr to accept him as an ally in his government. Gerlich, however, concludes from the conversation that Hitler is an unstable psychopath with a dangerous ideology and warns Kahr that he must be stopped. Kahr tries to outfox Hitler by convincing him that he is preparing to stage a military coup against the national government in Berlin and that Hitler must remain silent or else he can play no part in it. Upon learning that the proposed putsch is merely a ruse and that Kahr has no intention of working with him, Hitler confronts Kahr at gunpoint and coerces him and his associates into supporting his own plan for a putsch. To convince them to side with him, he gains the tacit approval of esteemed military general, Erich von Ludendorff (Fredrich von Thun). Röhm and the SA plan to take over the military barracks in preparation for a march on Berlin. However, when Ludendorff releases Von Kahr and his associates, they alert the Bavarian Army of Hitler’s plan and the attempted coup is quickly crushed. Hitler takes refuge at the Hanfstaengl’s home, almost resorting to suicide before Ernst’s wife, Helene Hanfstaengl (Julianna Margulies), stops him.
Hitler is promptly arrested by the authorities and put on trial for attempted treason. Much to Gerlich’s dismay, who is watching in the stands, Hitler manages to use the trial to his advantage, winning over the audience and the Judge with his courtroom theatrics and compelling speeches, in which he accuses Kahr and the national government, of being the real traitors. Consequently, the Judge awards him a lenient sentence of nine months imprisonment, during which Hitler writes his memoirs (later published as Mein Kampf), assisted by his secretary, Rudolf Hess (James Babson). After his release from prison, Hitler visits the Hansftaegls. Ernst has fallen out of favour with Hitler for abandoning the putsch in order to escape jail time and for refusing to publish Hitler’s memoirs. Their relationship is further fractured when Ernst becomes jealous of Hitler’s affections toward Helene, whom Hitler credits for saving his life by talking him out of suicide after the failed putsch.
In 1925, Hitler goes to the countryside to escape politics. His older half-sister, Angela (Julie-Ann Hastet), and her daughter, Geli Raubal (Jena Malone), come to live with him. Hitler quickly becomes infatuated and protective toward the attractive Geli, and he takes her with him when he returns to Munich to re-unify the party, which has disintegrated into warring factions since his incarceration. Blaming the putsch’s failure on Ludendorff’s incompetence, Hitler declares that the party can no longer rely on military means to achieve power but rather by following a legal, democratic course. He tells the party their task is to win elections, not cause agitation. This declaration puts him into conflict with Röhm, who continues to believe the party’s route to power is through an SA-led coup. Röhm’s refusal to bow to Hitler’s directive strains their relationship. Nonetheless, Hitler’s demand for complete subordination of the party wins the approval of the remaining party leaders, including an impressionable young agitator named Joseph Goebbels (Justin Salinger).
During the late 1920s, as Germany’s economic situation once again worsens, the party’s political fortunes improve, with the National Socialists gaining more and more seats in the Reichstag with each election. Alarmed by the party’s growing popularity, Gerlich proceeds to write articles in opposition to Hitler, inflaming both Hitler and the SA, who attempt to suppress the newspaper through violence and intimidation. The paper’s editor bows to the pressure and fires Gerlich. Gerlich, however, soon forms his own newspaper by covertly using the same publishing house which produces Hitler’s newspapers, knowing that it is the one publishing company Hitler cannot afford to close down. Meanwhile, Geli, who has become distraught by Hitler’s emotionally abusive behaviour and overbearing control over her life, commits suicide with his pistol. Following her death, Hitler becomes acquainted with Eva Braun (Zoe Telford), who soon becomes his live-in lover until she too begins experiencing the same feeling of imprisonment that Geli felt. Eva eventually attempts suicide, but after the attempt fails, Hitler tells her never to do so again as it will interfere with his political ambitions.
In 1932, Hitler becomes a German citizen in order so that he may run for President against incumbent, Paul von Hindenburg (Peter O'Toole). Although he is unsuccessful, the party has become the largest party in the Reichstag, a fact which emboldens Hitler to demand Hindenburg appoint him Chancellor (as no other party can form an absolute majority). Hindenburg, who despises Hitler, instead appoints Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher to the Chancellorship, respectively, but both men fail in their positions as the National Socialists continually use their majority to dissolve each parliamentary session. Left with no other choice, Hindenburg appoints Hitler German Chancellor in 1933. Hitler tells Goering and Goebbels that they must do something drastic to consolidate their hold on power. Thereafter, the Reichstag is mysteriously set on fire, allegedly by a communist, and Hitler uses the incident to persuade the parliament to award him dictatorial powers, which include suspension of civil liberties and suppression of the press. As a consequence, Gerlich's newspaper is shut down and he is arrested by the SA.
Despite Germany becoming a police state under his command, Hitler still feels insecure in his position and believes he must crush all his opponents once and for all. On 30 June 1934, the Night of the Long Knives, Röhm is arrested for refusing to accept that the SA must be absolved into the German Army rather than remain a separate para-military force. Given the choice by Hitler to commit suicide, Röhm refuses and is shot dead. Gerlich, who has been imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp, is brutally beaten and murdered, and his wife sent a pair of his bloodied spectacles with no official notice of her husband’s death. Von Kahr, Schleicher and Hitler’s other political enemies are all swiftly ambushed and murdered. Hanfstaengl, who has all but completely fallen out out favour with Hitler, and whose marriage to Helene has become estranged after she has grown closer to Hitler, makes plans to flee Germany and the new regime. Following Hindenburg’s death in August, 1934, Hitler combines the office of President and Chancellor into one – at last making him the absolute ruler of Germany.
- Robert Carlyle as Adolf Hitler
- Stockard Channing as Klara Hitler
- Jena Malone as Geli Raubal
- Julianna Margulies as Helene Hanfstaengl
- Matthew Modine as Fritz Gerlich
- Liev Schreiber as Ernst Hanfstaengl
- Peter Stormare as Ernst Röhm
- Friedrich von Thun as Erich Ludendorff
- Peter O'Toole as Paul von Hindenburg
- Zoe Telford as Eva Braun
- Terence Harvey as Gustav von Kahr
- Justin Salinger as Dr. Joseph Goebbels
- Chris Larkin as Hermann Göring
- James Babson as Rudolf Hess
- Patricia Netzer as Sophie Gerlich
- Harvey Friedman as Friedrich Hollaender
- Nicole Marischka as Blandine Ebinger
- Julie-Ann Hassett as Angela Hitler
- Thomas Sangster as Hitler (age 10)
- Simon Sullivan as Hitler (age 17)
- Robert Glenister as Anton Drexler
- Brendan Hughes as Hugo Gutmann
- Ian Hogg as Alois Hitler
The miniseries received mixed reviews but was nominated for an Emmy for Best Miniseries. Peter O'Toole was also nominated for an Emmy in the supporting actor in a TV movie or miniseries category. The miniseries won Emmys for Art Direction and Sound Editing.
The New York Times said "The filmmakers worked so hard to be tasteful and responsible that they robbed their film of suspense, drama and passion" but praised the performances of Peter O'Toole, Julianna Margulies and Liev Schreiber.
It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole world into war. I can’t think of a better time to examine this history than now.—Ed Gernon
Production company Alliance Atlantis, where he had worked for more than a decade, fired him for this comparison. CBS said that his "personal opinions are not shared by CBS and misrepresent the network's motivation for broadcasting this film".
Associates[who?] claimed that CBS was prompted to act by a New York Post article that claimed the comment was a sign of Hollywood’s anti-Americanism and stated that Gernon had said President George W. Bush should be looked at “through the prism of Germany’s psychopath.”
At the beginning of the film, Hitler's father is shown dying in front of Klara and a young Adolf, at their home during a meal. In fact, Hitler's father died when he went out for his usual morning drink at his local inn, the Gasthaus Stiefler.
Klara Hitler's doctor, Dr. Eduard Bloch (who diagnosed her with breast cancer) is portrayed as a Hasidic Jew. In reality, like most Jews in Linz at the time, Bloch was fully assimilated into Austro-Hungarian society. While walking through Vienna, Hitler passes a shabby boarding house that is offering its rooms in English, obviously to the benefit of the English-speaking TV audience.
Hitler is shown as fleeing from Vienna on a train bound for Munich in May 1914. In reality, the time of Hitler's departure from the then Austro-Hungarian Empire for Germany was actually exactly one year earlier in May 1913. At the outbreak of the First World War on August 1, a newspaperboy selling a special edition announces the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria to his customers although this incident happened on June 28, five weeks earlier. During this scene, a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II can be seen in the background (the same statue is later beheaded by communist revolutionaries when Hitler returns to Munich after the war). In fact, there were no statues of Wilhelm II in Imperial Germany because it was deemed inappropriate to represent a living person (the only exception being one on the Hohenzollernbrücke in Cologne). Even so, the least likely location would have been the capital of Bavaria, a region whose inhabitants harbored deep resentments against everything and anyone they felt to be "Prussian".
While serving on the Western Front, Hitler is given an order by a sergeant wearing Reichswehr-style shoulder straps. During World War I, German NCOs were not wearing shoulder straps, their rank being indicated by NCO Tressen (lace edging at the collar and cuffs). Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross for repeated acts of bravery in front line service, and not for the cynical political reasons given in the film (though historian Thomas Weber, writing some years after the series, states it was mostly for his proximity to regimental command and that he actually spent the war in relative comfort and safety as a regimental, rather than battalion, runner, though this detail was not known at the time the series was made.) Additionally, there are multiple issues with military awards. For example, Erich Ludendorff is shown wearing a Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross. This exclusive medal has been awarded only twice, but Ludendorff was not a recipient. Furthermore, the German Army at the time did not wear Ribbon bars, as is depicted in the film.
While Hitler is recuperating from mustard gas poisoning in a German military hospital, a doctor announces the German "surrender". In fact, the war was not ended by a surrender, but by an armistice. In any case, the abdication of the Kaiser and the beginning of the revolution in Berlin (both on November 9, two days earlier) would have been far greater and much more important news to the German people at the time, as the armistice had already been expected since October.
When famously asked by a general to spy on the German Workers Party at a Beer Hall in Munich, Hitler replies he doesn't drink (in reality he did occasionally drink, especially after the failed 20 July plot to calm down his nerves), yet later on the film he is contradictorily portrayed as toasting champagne with fellow senior Nazi party members at his celebration of attaining German citizenship in 1932.
Anton Drexler is depicted as not wearing glasses or having a moustache; in fact, he had both. Ironically Gottfried Feder is shown as wearing spectacles when in reality he actually did not. Feder is also shown without a moustache when in reality he had a trade-mark Toothbrush moustache. Ernst Röhm is also portrayed as being tall, decently slim and lacking a moustache; in reality, he was short in height, somewhat stout, and had a moustache.
In the scene where Hitler poses for a photo, the picture of Mussolini in the newspaper shown was taken in Munich in 1937.
One scene depicts Feder giving a speech at a beer hall advocating the separation of Catholic Bavaria from the rest of Germany. In reality, he said that the German state of Bavaria and Austria should annex together to form a nation separate from Germany.
In the scene in the Kroll Opera House, Hitler is shown to meet opposition from other parties. In reality the Reichstag largely supported the bill, which passed 444-94 with the only dissenters being the Social Democratic Party.
Hitler's niece, Geli is also shown to commit suicide the same night as the 1930 election, but in reality she died more than a year after this event.
The place where the clash of the Nazis "marching for Berlin" with the Bavarian police was filmed bears no resemblance at all with Odeonsplatz in Munich where the actual clash took place. Odeonsplatz still looks very much as it did back then and it is not known why that clash was not filmed on location there.
Other inaccuracies include:
- Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels are minor characters in the story, and so their contributions to Hitler's success is, for the most part, unexamined.
- Ernst Hanfstaengl is given a prominent role, while other infamous Nazi figures such as Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich and Albert Speer are not depicted.
- Erich von Ludendorff is portrayed in the film as an ignorant, fatuous old man, with whom Hitler severed ties. However, according to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer, Ludendorff abandoned Hitler, even refusing to accept a Field Marshal's baton.
- Kurt von Schleicher's role in Hitler's rise to power is largely glossed over. Gregor Strasser, Hitler's competitor, was also not portrayed with much importance.
- Dietrich Eckart was a huge influence on Hitler until the Beer Hall putsch of 1923. Hitler dedicated the second volume of Mein Kampf to Eckart. He is not portrayed or mentioned in the film. In Göring's first appearance in the film, he utters Eckart's words regarding leaders.
- Many members of the cast bear very little resemblance with the historical characters they are supposed to depict.
In Australia, the film was aired on the Seven Network. The network initially used a promotion which went as follows:
Boy 1: "When I grow up, I want to be a fireman." (shows drawing a fire truck)
Narrator: "Every child needs encouragement..."
Girl: "When I grow up, I want to be a nurse." (shows drawing of a hospital)
Narrator: "But what if you encouraged the wrong child?"
Boy 2: "When I grow up, I want to be much, much more..." (shows child violently drawing a Nazi flag)
The advertisement then proceeded to show the trailer for the film. After some review, the network decided that it was inappropriate to use such a tone to promote a film about Hitler, so the initial scenes were removed and the standard trailer was shown.
- Boller, Jr., Paul F.; George, John (1989). They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505541-1.
- Stanley, Alessandra (16 May 2003). "TV WEEKEND; Architect of Atrocity, The Formative Years". The New York Times.
- Wiegand, David (24 June 2011). "An attempt to fathom Hitler / Robert Carlyle conveys depths of tyrant's evil". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- "TV Review: Hitler: The Rise of Evil". Entertainment Weekly.
- "Producer fired for view on Bush".[dead link]
- ‘Hitler’ producer Gernon fired
- John Toland, Hitler, p.15. ISBN 1 85326 676 0
- John Toland, Hitler, p.50. ISBN 1 85326 676 0
- Amtliches Protokoll
- John Toland, Hitler, p.168. ISBN 1 85326 676 0
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- CBC website for the series
- Hitler: The Rise of Evil at allmovie
- Hitler: The Rise of Evil at the Internet Movie Database