Fatherland (1994 film)

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Fatherland poster.jpg
VHS Cover
Science Fiction
Written byNovel
Robert Harris
Stanley Weiser
Ron Hutchinson
Directed byChristopher Menaul
StarringRutger Hauer
Miranda Richardson
Peter Vaughan
Jean Marsh
Michael Kitchen
Music byGary Chang
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Gideon Amir
Ilene Kahn
Frederick Muller
Leo Zisman
Production location(s)Prague, Czech Republic
CinematographyPeter Sova
Editor(s)Tariq Anwar
Running time106 minutes
Production company(s)HBO Pictures
Budget£4.1 million
Original networkHBO
Picture formatBlack and White
Audio formatDolby Digital
Original release26 November 1994 (United States)
27 January 1995 (Germany)
February 1995 (Sweden)

Fatherland is a 1994 TV film adaptation of the book of the same name by Robert Harris. The film was produced by HBO, and stars Rutger Hauer as Xavier March and Miranda Richardson as Charlotte "Charlie" McGuire.


A prologue outlines the story's alternate timeline. The failure of the D-Day invasion causes the United States to withdraw from the European theater and General Dwight D. Eisenhower to retire in disgrace. The US continues the Pacific War against Japan and, led by General Douglas MacArthur, achieves victory using atomic bombs. In Europe, Nazi Germany successfully invades the United Kingdom, resulting in King George VI and the rest of the royal family fleeing to Canada in exile while still ruling the Empire; under Nazi supervision Edward VIII regains the throne while Wallis Simpson becomes his queen. Winston Churchill also goes into exile in Canada and lives there until his death in 1953. Germany corrals the rest of Europe (except neutral Switzerland and the Vatican City) into the Greater German Reich, known as "Germania" for short. German society is largely clean and orderly - at least on the surface - with the SS reorganized into an elite, peacetime police force.

Germania as a state is embroiled in its endless war with the Soviet Union, still led by the 85 year-old Joseph Stalin, which lasts well into the 1960s. The 1960 election of Democratic President Joseph Kennedy, whose Anti-Semitic views have been well-publicized, gives the Nazi leadership a chance to secure a détente with the United States. In 1964, as Adolf Hitler's 75th birthday approaches and President Kennedy heads to Germany for a summit meeting, the nation opens its borders to U.S. and Latin American media.

The week before the summit, a body is discovered floating in a lake near Berlin by Hermann Jost (Rupert Penry-Jones), an SS cadet in training. SS Major Xavier March (Rutger Hauer) is assigned the case and questions Jost, who admits he saw the body being dumped by Odilo "Globus" Globočnik (John Shrapnel), an Obergruppenführer in the Gestapo and right-hand man of Reichsführer-SS Reinhard Heydrich. The dead man is revealed to be Josef Bühler, a retired Nazi Party official who managed the Jewish resettlement in Germany's Eastern European territories during the war. The Gestapo takes over the case for "state security" reasons, and Jost dies in an apparent training accident.

Meanwhile, Charlotte "Charlie" Maguire (Miranda Richardson), a member of a visiting US press entourage, is discreetly given an envelope by an old man at her hotel. Inside is a photograph of several high-ranking Nazi officials outside a villa. A note on the photograph leads her to Wilhelm Stuckart, another retired Nazi Party official, but she finds him dead at his apartment. March is reassigned to the Stuckart case, but when he takes Charlie to the crime scene the Gestapo claims jurisdiction, and March's superior, Arthur Nebe (Peter Vaughan), warns him against investigating further. Following up on the photo, Charlie and March visit Wannsee to learn the identities of the men, who attended the Wannsee Conference. Each is found to have died under suspicious circumstances, except for Franz Luther (John Woodvine), the man who gave Charlie the picture.

March tells Charlie to get out of Germany, as he now realizes there is a plot at the very highest levels to cover up whatever was discussed at the Conference. Luther contacts Charlie and asks her to meet him on a train, where he requests that she communicate his desire for safe passage to the US, in exchange for what he knows about "the biggest secret of the war." SS troops corner Luther and kill him, but March rescues Charlie. March later blackmails a colleague to get Luther's file and learns that he had a mistress, former stage actress Anna von Hagen.

Posing as a US Embassy official sent to process Luther's safe passage, Charlie visits Hagen and obtains Luther's papers. Hagen reveals that the Jews were not in fact resettled, but killed en masse by the Germans during the war, which was planned at the Conference. March is horrified by the photos and documents proving the genocide happened, and agrees to join Charlie in escaping Germany with his son Pili. However, the Gestapo has already persuaded Pili to betray his father to them, and March is lured into a trap set by Globus. During his escape, March kills a Gestapo agent but is mortally wounded. He manages to reach a phone booth, from which he calls Pili one more time before dying. As Kennedy arrives at the Great Hall, a member of the press entourage helps Charlie slip the documents to him via the US ambassador. Kennedy looks at the materials and decides to fly back to the US immediately.

In the epilogue, it is revealed that the narrator is a grown-up Pili. He says Charlie was eventually arrested by the Gestapo, but the revelation of the mass slaughter of the Jews derailed any prospect of a strategic alliance with the US, resulting in revolutions across Europe and the Nazi regime's eventual collapse.



Mike Nichols bought the film rights before the novel was published in the United States.[1] When a theatrical film proved unfeasible, the production moved to HBO. The film was budgeted at $7 million and was filmed entirely in Prague.[2] The Praha Penta Hotel, today's Hilton Prague Old Town, doubled for Berlin's Hotel Adlon, where Charlie stays. The headquarters of Radio Free Europe, today the New Building of the National Museum, served as the Berlin Police HQ, where March works. The rear facade of the National Monument in Vitkov was used as the Sepp Dietrich SS Academy. The rear facade of the headquarters of Motokov, the Czech state car company, today the City Empiria tower, served as the exterior of the Reichsarchiv. The Nazi rally in the finale was filmed at Letná Park, including at the Stalin Monument.

Critical reception[edit]

The movie received mixed reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated it at 50% from six reviews.[3]

Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly graded the movie at B+. He states that the book's plot was faithfully reproduced and helped pull good performances from Hauer and Richardson. He also took note of Menaul's directing by adding small details such as advertisements on the Beatles' shows. However, Tucker said the predictability of the revelation detracted from the film.[4]

Since its release, Harris has announced he was disappointed with the adaptation. Speaking to The Independent in 2012, he said:

"My first novel, Fatherland, was made into a very bad film. [It] was originally bought by Mike Nichols to be made into a feature film. But in the end he couldn't get a studio to back it so the project became a made-for-television movie for HBO instead. By the time it was shot there'd been so many artistic compromises – in particular two fundamental changes in the story – that it ceased to have the feel of the novel. Some people like it but I have to say that I don't."[5]


Miranda Richardson received a Golden Globe Award in 1995 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for her performance. Rutger Hauer's performance was also nominated, as well as the film itself. The film also received an Emmy nomination in 1995 for Special Visual Effects.



  1. ^ Whitney, Craig R. (3 June 1992). "Inventing A World In Which Hitler Won". Germany: NYTimes.com. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  2. ^ Variety Staff (1 March 1994). "Hauer, Richardson set for HBO's 'Fatherland' – Variety". Variety.com. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Fatherland". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  4. ^ Ken Tucker (25 November 1994). "Fatherland Review | TV Reviews and News". EW.com. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  5. ^ Charlotte Philby (18 February 2012). "Hollywood ate my novel: Novelists reveal what it's like to have their book turned into a movie". The Independent. Retrieved 7 November 2017.

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