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…
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.”