Red Baron Film Breaks German War Hero Taboos | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 22.03.2008
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Red Baron Film Breaks German War Hero Taboos

In a country where patriotism is looked down upon, a new film about a World War I pilot -- one of most expensive movies ever made in Germany -- takes a new twist: It paints the Red Baron as a national hero.

Matthias Schweighoefer

Rising star Matthias Schweighoefer is the Red Baron

According to historical accounts, Manfred von Richthofen -- dubbed the Red Baron due to the color of his aircraft -- shot down 80 Allied planes as a fighter pilot during World War I and became not only the most successful German pilot but also an icon of his era.

Ninety-years after his death, an 18-million-euro ($28-million) film which opens in Germany on April 10, recounts the war adventures of the Prussian nobleman whose life ended at the age of 25.

German actor Matthias Schweighoefer stars in the title role, with Til Schweiger and Joseph Fiennes in supporting roles. They filmed in English to make the movie more attractive to an international audience.

Heroism despite senselessness of war

Manfred von Richthofen

Richthofen received several medals for his service

Talk of war is kept to a minimum in Germany, and patriotic statements are deliberately avoided. It's all the more unusual, then, that the film presents Richthofen as a hero, while not glorifying war. In fact, it's been called an anti-war war movie.

"Historically there has been reluctance and there are strong voices in Germany still saying we're not allowed to do this: a film about a German war hero," said the film's writer and director Nikolai Muellerschoen, as reported by the "Guardian Online." "But the film makes a very clear statement against war."

Though Richthofen is known for having been an efficient war machine, the film depicts a sensitive, human hero who is made aware of the brutality of war through his love for his nurse Kaete (British actress Lena Headey). Despite the exciting air escapades in his Fokker Dr 1, Richthofen discovers that war is not a game.

Cause of death remains unknown

On the set of The Red Baron

On the set of "The Red Baron"

The Red Baron lost his life in the line of duty on April 21, 1918 -- just weeks before the end of the war. The exact circumstances of his death remain unknown.

The movie is part of a rising interest in Germany in war history and follows on the heels of similar war films like "The Downfall," an account of the last days in Adolf Hitler's Berlin bunker, and Tom Cruise's upcoming movie on Claus von Stauffenberg, who led a plot to assassinate the Fuehrer.

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