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Culture

Controversial Hitler Film Gets Israeli Release

Test audiences in Jerusalem last week approved of a film depicting two sides of the architect of the Final Solution. The film, Der Untergang -- The Downfall, will now open in Israeli cinemas in May.

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Israelis will come face-to-face with the controversial portrayal of Hitler

A highly acclaimed German film sometimes criticized for portraying Adolf Hitler in too positive a light is to be released in Israel after viewers gave it positive feedback last week.

The film, "The Downfall, (Der Untergang)" which was nominated in 2004 for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category, depicts Hitler's final days in a Berlin bunker and includes scenes in which the Nazi dictator seems almost approachable.

While the film has been a hit in Europe since its release, it had problems finding a distributor in Israel. But last week, Nurit Shani, owner of the Israeli cinema chain Lev and film distributor Shani, told Reuters that she decided to show the movie after an audience of 1,000 invited to a preview last week approved of it by 91 percent.

Oliver Hirschbiegel, der Regisseur des Films Der Untergang

Presenting two sides

"I expected a vote in favour of the movie, but I didn't imagine it would be so decisive," Shani told Reuters. "I know there are still many for whom it will be difficult to see the human side of Hitler portrayed in a film. But it would have been unfair to prevent a curious and interested audience that is willing to confront the painful subject in its own way from seeing the movie."

A brutal megalomaniac

The Jewish state gained its independence after the end of World War II, in which six million Jews were slaughtered according to Hitler's plan. Even 60 years later is no issue more sensitive to the nation. For example, a few Israeli officials boycotted a recent appearance of German President Horst Köhler.

Amerikanisches Plakat von The Downfall, Der Untergang

While the film portrays Hitler as a brutal megalomaniac, it also shows his more human side: a man who could show kindness to his staff, to animals and to his wife and a man who suffered from Parkinson's disease. Hitler committed suicide April 30, 1945 in the bunker.

"This is the first time I saw how they (the Germans) suffered, how they struggled with themselves, how they saw their 'Fuehrer' as crazy," Simha Siani, who voted for screening the film, told Reuters.

The film will open in three Israeli cities May 19, two weeks after the annual Holocaust Memorial Day is observed.

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