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Review: Alone in Berlin a marvellously buttoned down war-time thriller about good Germans

PUBLISHED: 08:48 30 June 2017

Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson as Otto and Anna Quangel in Alone in Berlin. Picture: Christine Schroeder/CanalPlus

Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson as Otto and Anna Quangel in Alone in Berlin. Picture: Christine Schroeder/CanalPlus

Archant

Hans Fallada’s rediscovered bestseller, based on a true story of a couple who launch a protest against the Nazis, is brought to the screen starring Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson.

Emma Thompson as Anna Quangel in adptation of Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin. Picture: Christine Schroeder/CanalPlusEmma Thompson as Anna Quangel in adptation of Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin. Picture: Christine Schroeder/CanalPlus

Alone in Berlin (12A)

***

This is a drama about ‘Good Germans’. Married couple Otto and Anna speak in German accented English and protest against the Nazi regime in a very English way: by writing strongly worded letters of complaint.

Based on the inspirational true story of Otto Hampel and his wife Elise, which was fictionalised in Hans Fallada’s 1947 novel, a surprise recent rediscovered bestseller, Alone In Berlin is a wartime drama directed by Vincent Perez that unfolds in 1940 Berlin where animosity towards Jews is on the rise.

Otto Quangel (Brendan Gleeson) is a foreman at a factory who comes home every night to his doting wife Anna (Emma Thompson).

They are devastated to receive a telegram informing them of the death of their only son Hans (Louis Hofmann). The couple’s grief is compounded by the senseless death of an old Jewish woman, who lives in the apartment upstairs.

Otto decides to channel his rage into penning an anonymous postcard, with a strongly worded message to defy Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Anna joins her husband in this covert enterprise and together they drop over 200 postcards around the German capital, knowing full well that if they are discovered they will be executed.

SS Officer Prall (Mikael Persbrandt) demands action and police detective Escherich (Daniel Bruhl) is charged with unmasking the writer as part of Operation Hobgoblin.

Though the Nazis’ search for the seditious postcard writer has elements of the police procedural - Otto even wears gloves like a serial killer - the film has the quiet studious air of a reconstruction, rather than a drama.

This suits Gleeson who gives a marvellously buttoned down performance as a man hollowed out by his experiences, with almost nothing left to lose.

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