Elser – 13 Minutes

Isn’t it funny how the way a film’s title is translated can give a totally different impression of what the film is going to be about?

I knew the premise of the film – in 1939, a plot to assassinate Hitler failed by the titular 13 minutes. I hadn’t even paid attention to the film’s original title; I had just assumed it was 13 Minuten. But the film isn’t about those 13 minutes, it’s about the person behind the assassination attempt – Georg Elser, whose surname is the film’s German title.

And so the story is this man’s story, of how his life under the burgeoning Nazi regime in the 30’s eventually led a rather ordinary, flawed individual to attempt such a potentially world-changing action.

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel (whose German-language films are better than his English-language ones, in my opinion – check out Das Experiment if you haven’t seen it) had me fascinated by this man almost from the outset. The use of flashbacks mostly worked for me, although on a couple of occasions I was so wrapt his back story that I didn’t want to be jolted back to the present just at that precise moment …

Not always easy to watch, but it does make you think. Not only “what if”, but also “how do these German actors feel about playing Gestapo officers”?

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