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No, this isn’t a photograph of the latest Norumbega staff meeting, it’s a publicity shot from the upcoming United Artists film, “Valkyrie”. The film tells the story of Claus Philipp Maria Schenck von Stauffenberg, the heroic German Catholic noble who was the mastermind behind the July 20 plot against Hitler. Needless to say, there has been much anticipation over this film, especially since the lead role went to Tom Cruise, who has never quite got the knack of acting. Like Jeremy Irons, he seems to believe that completely different characters require little or no change in performance, but is mysteriously still making films nonetheless. (Cruise at least has the excuse of being a Scientologist to explain his success… what’s Jeremy Irons’s?).

Despite the poor choice of Mr. Cruise play Count Stauffenberg, the rest of the cast includes some pretty inspired choices. Playing Countess Nina von Stauffenberg is Carice von Houten (above), whom you will remember from “Zwartboek”. She’s joined by fellow “Zwartboek” actor Christian Berkel (top photo, seated far left), who played the evil General Kaütner in the Dutch film, the character responsible for the downfall of the good German, General Müntze, who was played by Sebastian Koch (better known for his role in the hit “Das Leben der Anderen”) who (pause for breath) actually played Count Stauffenberg himself in a 2004 German television production called “Stauffenberg”. Speaking of downfalls, Berkel (we’re back to him now) also played a nasty Nazi in the 2004 film “Downfall” depicting the last few days in Hitler’s bunker. [Correction: Berkel actually played Dr. Ernst-Günter Schenck, one of the good guys.] Some more of the cast…

Tom Cruise is actually rather short, whereas the good Count was actually rather tall.

Kenneth Branagh as General Henning von Tresckow. From a Prussian noble family, he was born in 1901 and was one of the youngest soldiers of the First World War, earning the Iron Cross (1st Class) at the Second Battle of the Marne. “Hitler is not only the arch-enemy of Germany, but the arch-enemy of the world.”

Bill Nighy as Gen. Friedrich Olbricht, a Saxon and son of a mathematician. Another veteran of the First World War, Olbricht was an early opponent of National Socialism, being wary of the movement from their unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, ten years before Hitler came to power. He was awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for bravery during the (boooo!) Invasion of Poland.

Germany plays herself in the film, though there are also a few scenes shot in Bohemia.

Terence Stamp as Gen. Ludwig Beck. Beck was originally a German expansionist, hoping to restore his native land to her previous military might. Yet he had become increasingly aware of Hitler’s madness so that by the time of the Czech crisis of 1938 he had primed an army plot to overthrow Hitler. All that was needed was for the Western powers to deliver a resounding “no” to Hitler’s attempt to annex the Sudetenland. Gen. Beck even went so far as to inform the British Foreign Office of the plot. Typically, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain ignored the opportunity and instead signed the Munich Agreement compelling Czechoslovakia to surrender the Sudetenland, handing Hitler his first victory.

Eddie Izzard, the famed English comedian, plays Gen. Erich Fellgiebel. Hitler never trusted Fellgiebel, a brilliant Prussian military officer, due to his independence of mind but nonetheless relied on his intelligence and made him head of the Signal Service.

The film also stars Stephen Fry and Ian McNeice in unnamed roles.

“God willing, we can save Europe from total destruction.”

View the trailer

This post was published on Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 8:04 pm. It has been categorised under Cinema Germany History Military and been tagged under , , , , .
L Gaylord Clark
17 Apr 2008 8:42 am

Let us pass by, attempting a dignified silence, the absurd posturings of a nonentity like Cruise as he attempt to fit himself into a Wehrmacht uniform.
What cannot be passed over, either in silence or even muffled protest, is your offensive use of the term “evil Nazi” to describe the character played (superbly) by Christian Berkel in “Der Untergang”. Dr Schenk is portrayed in the film as a brave and heroic doctor, who risks his life time after time to save lives and to stop, wherever possible, the continued senseless slaughter of his people. How does this make him evil? Or does his SS uniform automatically make him so?
History is complex; why can’t we learn from it rather than continuing to merely mouth slogans which were understandable in 1945, but only serve, in 2008, to perpetuate propoganda and to kill understanding.

Andrew Cusack
17 Apr 2008 10:44 am

My memory must be failing me. I thought he played the part of the diplomat who killed himself. I must see the film again!

Mea culpa!

Robert Harrington
17 Apr 2008 12:37 pm

You’re probably remembering that because the scene where the diplomat suddenly decides to kill himself has the Doctor played by Berkel by his side telling him not to.

I too am looking forward to Valkyrie, but it is such a shame that, with all the money they’ve shelled out, they didn’t get a proper actor for the all-important role of Stauffenberg.

John Fitzgerald
17 Apr 2008 3:19 pm

I agree that to say “nasty Nazi” was unnecessary, but because it was tautological, not “offensive.” The word “Nazi” doesn’t really require a pejorative qualifier. As for Tom Cruise landing the lead role, it probably has something to do with the fact that he recently bought United Artists. As for Jeremy Irons’ theatrical range, you can begin by renting Dead Ringers in which he plays the roles of two twin surgeons with markedly different personalities.

L Gaylord Clark
17 Apr 2008 6:38 pm

Well, what if they had killed Hitler? Why do we all continue to assume, as the conspirators certainly did, that Hitler alone kept the war going? Would the Russian horde have stopped dead in its tracks at the news? Would the Allied bombing raids, specifically targeted at the civilian populations, have been halted?

No, the blood lust, the rage for revenge, was in full flow and would not have been satiated until the German nation was utterly destroyed. Hitler dead? The Allies would quickly have shifted gears and claimed that the war could not end until the eradication of the “Junker war machine” led by that notorious aristocrat Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben.

The international Left knew what it was doing, and would not have allowed itself to be cheated of its definitive victory, a victory not only over Hitler or over Germany, but, as he himself was soon to discover, even over the imperialist thinking of a man like Churchill himself.

Andrew Cusack
17 Apr 2008 9:50 pm

Alas, Mr. Clark is correct. The blood-lust that underpinned the demand of nothing but unconditional surrender would not have allowed any earlier end to the war.

It was the same idiocy which prolonged the First World War, but even worse. I believe Anscombe had some sensible things to say on this subject.

Martin Steffen
21 Apr 2008 9:09 am

Very interesting post and discussion. On the surgeon Schenck, however, the overall picture is slightly shadier and appraisals of him will of necessity be mixed. Yes, he did what he could to save lives, as in the 2004 film – yet he also participated actively in “nutrition research” as a Waffen-SS medical officer, including starvation experiments at the Dachau camp before 1944. Medical disciplinary body proceedings were brought against him in 1963. There is a biography forthcoming (in German) by historian Christoph Kopke. If anything, Schenck’s actions probably illustrate man’s capacity for good and evil that things needn’t be clear-cut black and white all the time…

J Jouret
21 Apr 2008 12:42 pm

Fortunately for the viewing public, the film’s release has been delayed yet again. It is now set for release next spring (2009), but no one should be surprised if it ends up being kept in the can indefinitely, perhaps for the “technical reasons” that will be apparent to anyone who views the trailer.
From that brief preview, it appears that Cruise is playing Stauffenberg as a smirking goof, a Cali surfer type in an officer’s uniform. Stauffenberg’s family were apparently appalled by the casting choice, and I suspect they’ll be even more horrified once they see the film. For all I know it’s a spot-on portrayal, but I find it much easier to believe that Cruise simply has no idea how a German military officer of the middle 20th century would have spoken, behaved or carried himself.

m davison
24 Apr 2008 10:11 am

well as a member of the viewing public, I do not consider my self fortunate in being prevented from seeing this film.I would very much like to see it,and no, I am not a Tom Cruise fan. Although i have to say ,using him as a reason for not showing the film is quite oversized as an argument anyway ! I dont like a lot of actors but wouldnt presume to stop a film being shown because of it!!Some of the complaints lodged against this film so far are laughable in themselves!Why are the cast not speaking with a german accent? well probably because it isnt a comedy(allo allo) and we are all supposed to have guessed they are all german. so they should just use the own voices and act the characters,
cruising on, apparently Tom is too short ,only looks like the nobleman he plays in profile? and is a scientologist, again Im no fan, but i am of Sir Antony Hopkins,and he didnt look like Richard Nixon ,his personal beliefs had no part in the acript and the trailer made him look backward to be honest due to its brevity and the way he held his face.But he was wonderful in the part.Name any trailer that isnt short and consisting of bits and pieces!! . Now im not saying this will or wont be a good film,but i must close by saying ,having sat through too many stinkers starring well respected and loved actors im quite prepared to sit through this one and give it a chance.Then let the comments flow on the cript and actors,which will be fair enough!

J Jouret
24 Apr 2008 1:48 pm

I regarded the delay as “fortunate” because it gives the filmmakers a chance to re-shoot Cruise’s scenes, perhaps with the actor actually getting in character this time — unlike the performance that is shown in the trailer! I have no objection to odd castings — the example of A Hopkins as Nixon is a good one — but I do object to bad acting, and Cruise tends to play every role with the same obnoxious smirk on his face whether it’s appropriate to the character or not. That marks him as a perpetual adolescent, yet my readings about Stauffenberg suggest he was an adult through and through, with a finely honed sense of honor and responsibility that to me seems to preclude smirking.

I’m sure we’ll all get to see it in good time. The producers aren’t likely to scrap the whole thing, given their not-inconsiderable investment.

Andrew Cusack
24 Apr 2008 4:03 pm

I agree with Mr. Jouret’s comments entirely. That stupid smirk is so irritating!

m davison
25 Apr 2008 11:27 am

There you do get my vote.The smirk is VERY annoying yes!
Actually im really interested in seeing how Hitler is depicted ,there are many things to bring out in him in these later months of the war, and there we have a fine actor at the helm, so we will see. It is mostly a hugely talented cast so i hope sooner, rather than later it gets to the screen and the film can then show the bravery of these men who had in some cases for years tried to stop Hitler, and payed the ultimate price for it. Thank you for listening to my thoughts ,i enjoyed reading yours.

Oliver McCarthy
28 Apr 2008 2:37 pm

It all looks like great fun. Get some of the campest luvvies imaginable (from Ken Branagh to Stephen Fry, for crying out loud), put them in Nazi uniforms, and get a director who’s best known for turning comic-book heroes into gay icons. Should be good! But the most amusing thing for me is that the film looks set to turn a blood-and-soil Catholic Nazi like Von Stauffenberg into a Top Gun-type Hollywood Übermensch.

You’ll never watch Schindler’s List the same way again.

m davison
30 Apr 2008 9:06 am

I really find the humour there just a tad annoying ,sorry .I dont think anyone would compare Schindlers List to anything else for a start, it is uniqure and stands alone as one of the all time great films about “Shoah”, there is NO comparison.And there is a process called acting which allows luvvies to make good pictures despite their mannerisms.If there is a shame here its not that Tom Cruise has decided to do the film….because it really does seem that noone can get past that.Or that comments shouldnt be made in fun or based on past work. . It is the inability of others to wait and see THIS FILM or not see it, if you dont want to waste your time before slating it . Then with some actual facts about the film itself is the time to give a crit about it , not write something off with authority that hasnt happened yet. i will certainly have an opinion at that time about it as well.I am certainly no Tom Crusie fan as i have already said. Its not blind faith but open mindedness that makes me answer here.!!

Chris Galea
9 Mar 2009 11:17 am

I have not seen the film yet, but it is good to remember these Fallen Heroes.

16 Sep 2010 7:42 pm

P M v Stauffenberg is a hero.

The Third Reich certainly had a good many evil players at the top; but I figure most of nazi soldiers were fine and honorable men. History has been too hard on them because history is always written by and to the advantage of the victors.

To compare the disparate cultures of Germany to those of the West is most ridiculous and flatly unfair. Democracy (before it went totally afoul) was anti-thetical to tribal Germany mentality.

WWII was clearly a comlicated extention of the First.

Although admittedly, I felt it a litte crazy of the Fueher to bomb Britian, a kindom ruled by a Thurigian royal dynasty.

The Allies were fiercely determined to put an end once and for all or any future threats of German historical militarism.

Hitler was extraordinarily savage for sure but ‘civilization’ has a deep price. A successful coup might have negotiated a premature end but had the Reich won by a slim chance America (the dubious champion of the ‘enterprise’) might have been sparred the decline that is the foul slop of our current and future and very Mediocre Age.

I’ll see the film.


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