The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

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MVSNConsolegenerale
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The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by MVSNConsolegenerale » 23 Apr 2002 21:09

I was wondering if anyone has had the chance to see the new HBO movie Conspiracy and was wondering if anyone wanted to comment on the realism of the movie. From the uniforms to the portrayal of the characters.

For those of you who don't know, Conspiracy stars Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci and came out as a tv movie a few months ago.

P.S. No responces on the six million lives comment! Yes it was 5.7 or whatever, but that is not the reason for this post!

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REALISM...

Post by Scott Smith » 24 Apr 2002 03:46

Yeah, I saw the movie. The uniforms appeared correct. The dramatization went far beyond the minutes of what was discussed, so I'm not sure we can say much about it. Eichmann was played as a heavy, which is a bit ridiculous. I found it amusing melodrama. It never ceases to amaze me that the supposedly ruthless Nazis can't hold their lunches when talking about killing people.
:)

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RE: The characters...

Post by MVSNConsolegenerale » 24 Apr 2002 04:10

Well, I thought that they portrayed Hydrich as way to overbearing...he was supposed to be able to manipulate people without them knowing...not threatening everybody...that really doesn't work in the SS.

Eichmann wasn't bad in my opinion.

However, beyond that I thought that rest were really realistic; Stuckart especially.

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Re: RE: The characters...

Post by Scott Smith » 24 Apr 2002 04:27

MVSNConsolegenerale wrote:Eichmann wasn't bad in my opinion.

He even had the servants shaking in their shoes. All accounts have Eichmann as a rather mild-mannered bureaucrat, however.

However, beyond that I thought that rest were really realistic; Stuckart especially.

The actual minutes have Stuckart as the villain who wants to sterilize everybody. The other Nazis just want to send the Jews to labor camps for the duration of the war, until (in the movie) Eichmann announces the fantastic murder-vans. So it seemed to me that the screenwriters made Stuckart the loudest "voice of reason" so that the others seem worse or just cowards.
:)

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Stuckart

Post by MVSNConsolegenerale » 24 Apr 2002 05:32

I watched the movie again a few hours ago...actually stuckart in comes across as the most...'level-headed anti-semite' - He says that they should be all sterilized but he disagrees with the SS/NAZI line that they are subhuman beasts who should be killed outright. So I think that stays true to the minutes.

Kressenger was the only one to come across as sympathetic.

And I meant Eichmann wasn't bad as in his portrayal wan't bad...not that he was not a bad man in reality. For all those anti-Nazi people out there.

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Post by walterkaschner » 24 Apr 2002 06:24

There is a German-Austrian movie "The Wansee Conference" produced in around 1984 which is available in the foreign language sections in at least some of the larger rental outlets in the US. It's in German but clearly articulated and the subtitles are quite good. I saw it fairly recently, some months after I initially viewed "Conspiracy", and thought it a somewhat better and more realistic job. In the German movie the actors portraying Heydrich, Freisler and to some degree Eichmann more closely resembled the photogaphs I have seen of the characters they were portraying than in the US production. I felt that there were too many "Hollywood" touches in "Conspiracy", and that both Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci overacted, although I enjoyed the film overall. But IMHO the earlier German version was less overdramatized and therefore more realistic.

Regards, Kaschner

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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (referring to the HBO Movie)?

Post by Navy Vet » 24 Aug 2011 13:43

Where can one obtain the actual "minutes"? Also, for those in the know, how accurate (in a percentage) is this movie's script to those minutes.

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Re:

Post by Navy Vet » 24 Aug 2011 15:31

walterkaschner wrote:There is a German-Austrian movie "The Wansee Conference" produced in around 1984 which is available in the foreign language sections in at least some of the larger rental outlets in the US. It's in German but clearly articulated and the subtitles are quite good.
It took a bit of work but here is the info, it is called "Die Wannseekonferenz"

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088377/
http://product.half.ebay.com/The-Wannse ... 93/3143240

and I could not find it on DVD (not even on German websites). You can find it on VHS tape or Laserdisc in USA under the "Wannsee Conference" name but it is rare and expensive.

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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by heimwehr danzig » 20 Nov 2011 14:32

I am a big fan of the Conspiracy movie, I agree the uniforms are very realistic, use of actual SS ranks may have been a nice touch though...

I too found the portrayal of Eichmann a little OTT, not the fault of Stanley Tucci though. From all the descriptions of Eichmann I have watched or read he was indeed quite 'mild mannered'. I can't imagine him berating a waiter for dropping plates, and certainly not slapping a soldier across the face for throwing a snowball.

Speaking of 'sympathetic' characters, I found Major Lange one of the most sympathetic, although he was the one with the most blood actually on his hands, so to speak, having admitted to overseeing the killing of circa 30,000 Jews in Riga.

All in all it is a really good watch though, I recommend it :milsmile:
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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by JockCampbell41 » 26 Nov 2011 16:36

I'm also a big fan of this movie and I think it's one of the best dramas I've seen among all the movies I've watched. That being said, I am sure that it takes a fair number of liberties with the historical portrayal of the characters and indeed one really appreciates it when one takes them for what they are - characters in a drama.

The problem perhaps lies in what a director/writer wants to achieve and what he/she would want the audience to remember. Often times that means slanting various characters, adding or removing scenes and dialogue and basically making it so that the viewer will 'root for' or 'root against' a particular character/characters. This I think is most apparent with Eichmann and Heydrich. They do chew the scenery but in this ensemble piece everyone, well nearly, has their 15 seconds of 'infamy'.

From the beginning Eichmann is set up as what we see him today as: the hideously inhumane, cold, mechanical murderer and accomplice of the even more terrifying Heydrich. Tucci plays Eichmann with relish but I think that the nervous bureaucrat in Eichmann comes out often enough as he stammers out "Well... I have figures..." and then gives the cold, clinical numbers of those murdered by the T4 program or in the Final Solution. Branagh's Heydrich for his part is like the shark in Jaws at the start of the film. The coldness of the winter echoes the coldness about these two characters. Heydrich is going to get it done, through the wine and cigars, the buffet lunch, through his urbane charm and cheeryness that disguises (until he gets impatient with other characters) an utterly ruthless demeanour. For those he cannot bend to his will in open discussion, he quite willingly and openly (albeit quietly) threatens in private conversation.

The various participants are given very interesting characterizations as well. Gestapo Müller is there mainly as Heydrich's left jab (as Eichmann is his 'right hand'), quietly silencing opposition and threatening in his own way. Klopfer, played with delicious relish by Ian McNeice, is the morbidly obese personification of Nazi evil - corpulent to the point of disgusting, apparently lecherous (noticing the 'pretty little maid' and asking about Jewish sexual practices) and delighting in discussing the minutae of Jewish torture and execution. In reality Klopfer was, I believe, quite thin (at least his photo online shows him to be of average build). Once again, this is a function of character.

Klopfer also gets one of the - if not the - best lines in the film when he proudly announces to Neumann, who never ceases to tell people that he is the director of the office of Goering's Five Year Plan, "I represent Martin Bormann, the Party Chairman... of the THOUSAND Year Plan".

As a counterpoint, perhaps, to Klopfer we have Dr.Wilhelm Kritzinger, who works for Dr.Lammers at the Reichs Chancellery. Kritzinger is, essentially, the only 'good man' at the table as he does have what appears to be a genuine concern for the Jews' lives - and a real disgust when he discovers what is going on. He too is a very interesting character, perhaps the one that audience members might most empathize with.

Kritzinger was a pastor's son and the only one at Wansee who later expressed regret over his role in the Final Solution. When he realizes that he has been lied to by everyone about the true plans by the Nazis for the Jews he makes a move to leave, rising from the table and moving away. That perhaps was the moment (well one of the moments) that got to me the most - what would I have done if I had been in Kritzinger's place? Would I have left the conference, returned to the Reichs Chancellery and awaited what would most surely have been the Gestapo knocking at the door? Played with great heart and empathy by veteran British actor David Threllfall - it took me a while to recognize Captain Jack Aubrey's servant Killick!! - he provides the function and voice of moral opposition to the Final Solution.

Along with Kritzinger, the 'famous' Dr.Stuckart provides a different voice of opposition. He reacts so vehemently to the plan that Heydrich wants to essentially railroad (despite the latter's protestations that 'all points of view will be considered' and 'other voices will be heard') that he becomes the most vocal threat to the unanimity of the conference. His opposition, however, is not the high-minded moral philosophy of Kritzinger but rather a single-minded devotion to the supremacy of law. In his objections, some of the film's greatest dramatic highpoints are reached as he argues with Heydrich and Klopfer that their plan is shoddy and will only win the jews sympathy once their great and deadly secret is discovered. Interestingly, his analysis of the Jewish people displays a high regard for their intelligence and his warnings about how to handle the 'Jewish question' without turning the Jews into martyrs provides plenty of food for thought about the Final Solution. Stuckart is played by the always wonderful Colin Firth who gives vibrant life to the role of a man who at first glance (even to the Nazi hardliners) seems an unlikely defender of the Jews.

One particular area that the Reich controls that 'suffers' from the 'Jewish storage problem' as Heydrich puts it, is Poland under the name the General-Government. Two officials, Buhle and Meyer, represent the General Government and they find themselves in the awkward position of having the SS building concentration camps right under their noses. They, of all the people at the table, loath the Jews because they are forced to deal with the daily reality of housing thousands in overcrowded, disease-ridden ghettos where the pestilence threatens to overwhelm the camp guards and officials as well as the prisoners. Buhle and Meyer are quickly disgusted by Heydrich's heavy-handedness and arrogance but are overwhelmed by the latter's cold ruthless power. In their own sphere they would be like the devil reigning in hell but before Heydrich they are little more than impotent sub-demons.

Three other personages of note - or rather characters I should say - stand out in the drama. There is the ironically named Martin Luther, von Ribbentrop's representative to the meeting. Brilliant British character actor Kevin McNally (aka Mr Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean) takes on the role with aplomb, playing a diplomat's diplomat as the arse-kissing sycophant that, by all accounts, Herr Luther was. From the start, he goes out of his way to ingratiate himself with Eichmann and gives over-the-top vocal support to Heydrich's plans, even to the point of saying he will volunteer for an Einzatzgruppen. Heydrich of course sees through this and shoots him down when he attempts to claim that some of what HE suggested had been mentioned by Heydrich in his introductory discourse.

There is Major Langer, the man with the most actual blood on his hands, who plays the character that in another movie would be played by Ralph Fiennes or Thomas Kretschmann, the KZ Lager commandant who relishes shooting Jews from his window for breakfast. He is uncomfortable with bureaucracy and interrupts Heydrich's attempts to doublespeak through the conference (referring obliquely to 'evacuation' of the Jews) by claiming that he had 'evacuated' some 3,000 Jews at Riga by shooting them, which Heydrich eventually admits is the true meaning of the word. He is Heydrich's bulldog and during a quiet moment Heydrich has to calm him down lest he bark again. Interestingly, in a conversation with Kritzinger, he reveals that he two had been a law student but that law school had only taught him to distrust words. "A gun means what it says" he says firmly.

Finally there is the rather weasley, 'little man' Neumann, "Director, Office of the Five Year Plan" as he endlessly reminds people to the point of literal ad nauseam. Neumann works for Reichsmarschal Hermann Göring as the business manager of the Reich's war machine. He is a clerk, a mathematical nerd, a small but nonetheless centrally important cog in the massive Nazi war machine. However, in this drama, Neumann is the one person who, though for economic reasons, actually stands up to and defies Heydrich and Eichmann, Klopfer and Müller, as he warns that taking away Jews, who have been deferred for their skills in various industries vital to the war, will cripple their already faltering war machine. He stammers through his examples while others barely seem to be listening to him, their eyes and hearts so focused on eradicating or 'cleansing' as Heydrich puts it, Europe of Jews. Yet he never wavers in his committment to seeing that Jews be retained if only for their usefulness as a labor force. Interestingly, this brings to mind another famous Holocaust film - Schindler's List. It would be the persistence of the pestilential little Neumann that would allow the likes of Oskar Schindler to save 'his' Jews.

Of the other characters, Schöngarth, an SS-General, has the least to do, followed, interestingly, by Roland "the hanging judge" Freisler. But for my knowledge of Sophie Scholl and the July 20 Plot I would not have linked this character with the screaming, haranguing, fanatically Nazi judge who would judicially murder hundreds of German anti-Nazi patriots at the scaffold. I felt that it was rather sad that they didn't bring his character out more but again, this is a drama and the heavy roles had already been handed out.

The script for Downfall is, IMHO, a superb piece of writing and characterization which brings out the spirit, if not the historical letter of the Wannsee conference. There are so many profoundly deep set-pieces and lines that just let the drama flow naturally and convey the horror of the act that is being brought about by (as CS Lewis might have said) clean-cut, well-dressed men who have no (well some) need to raise their voices. Lines like Klopfer's arrogant "Thousand Year Plan", the story of Kritzinger's friend, Kritzinger's explanation that Stuckart has no love for the Jews and 'his heart is pure' (dripping with irony), the whole discussion about law and how it restricts the governing as well as the governed, Heydrich's comment that the Fuhrer's word is above all law, all these make us think about what law is and what it should do. It raises moral issues about what is legal and what should not be legal. Then there is the snow-ball fight scene, the heart of which is Eichmann's angry comment that 'Nothing ever just happens,' the importance of which is it is precisely this reasoning that works against the Nazis when they try and explain away the Final Solution after the war. The 'crime' of the snowball fight carried out by soldiers in uniform parallels the CRIME of the Nazi government and military exterminating Jews. 'Nothing ever just happens' will rebound on Eichmann when he is brought to trial in Israel for the murder of millions.

Above all, the drama is incredible in that it makes us wonder at how all these people - all of them with titles next to their names (general, major, doctor, attorney), all highly intelligent and educated, the heirs of Greek math and science, Roman law, Catholic and Protestant faiths - could justify to themselves and to others the unimaginable horror that they were party to: eradicating the Jewish race, the race that (as Christians) their Jesus sprang from (indeed this is one of Dr.Stuckart's black marks against the Jews, their rejection of Christ). The way they - particularly Eichmann as the manager and Heydrich as the chairman - carry out the meeting, with absolute secrecy, no guest-book, no phone-calls, carefully edited stenographic record, double-speaking terms like 'evacuation', in my view show that at some level they realized that they are - or that others would perceive them as - culpable in the most horrific way. More than children planning to steal cookies from a jar, they plan to murder the baker and loot his shop.

One other character I failed to mention, but he should be right up there with Kritzinger and the others, is General Hoffmann, played by the actor who played Posca, Caesar's servant on HBO's Rome miniseries. Hoffmann, though also in the SS, becomes the target for Heydrich's vitriol as he senses Hoffmann is a rival that must be brought into line or squashed. Hoffmann also becomes visibly sick when Eichmann reports on the effects of carbon-monoxide gas execution but explains it away as a negative reaction to either the wine or the cigars to avoid losing face altogether. Interestingly, this provides Eichmann an opening to take something to quelch his own queesyness in the privacy of the staff kitchen, something he methodically seeks to disguise to the point of not eating and explaining away his own negative body response as 'a physical symptom'.

Another thing that I felt I should have expanded on more was the fate of the various participants. It was almost physically repulsive to see how many not only got away but were gainfully employed, even by America, after the war. I hope that there is a special circle of hell for them.

As a dramatic filmic work HBO's Conspiracy has a lot to commend itself to the viewer. I do hope sometime to view the German Wannsee conference which has been mentioned as more accurate particularly in casting. As regards accuracy, perhaps someone else will be able to comment on how accurate or inaccurate the script and portrayals were but as a piece of theater, it was wonderful.

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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by Navy Vet » 01 Jun 2013 20:14

"The Wannsee Conference" - this movie is now on YouTube:

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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by Michael Dorosh » 10 Nov 2015 17:53

JockCampbell41 wrote:perhaps someone else will be able to comment on how accurate or inaccurate the script and portrayals were but as a piece of theater, it was wonderful.
Couldn't care less how accurate the uniforms were. Thank you for this thoughtful and interesting analysis. I can't believe in the last 4 years no one thought to say so.

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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by askropp » 24 Jan 2016 00:46

It was almost physically repulsive to see how many not only got away but were gainfully employed, even by America, after the war.
Well, let me see ...

1.) Bühler - exectued in Poland 1948
2.) Eichmann - executed in Israel 1962
3.) Freisler - killed in Berlin 1945
4.) Heydrich - killed in Prague 1942
5.) Hoffmann - imprisoned 1945-1954, died 1982
6.) Klopfer - imprisoned 1945-1949, died 1987
7.) Kritzinger - imprisoned 1945-1947, died shortly after his release
8.) Lange - suicide in 1945
9.) Leibbrandt - imprisoned 1945-1949, died 1982
10.) Luther - imprisoned 1943-1945, died a few days after the end of the war
11.) Meyer - suicide in 1945
12.) Müller - killed or suicide in 1945
13.) Neumann - imprisoned 1945-1948, died 1951
14.) Schöngarth - executed by the British occupation authorities in 1946
15.) Stuckart -imprisoned 1945-1949, killed in a traffic accident 1953

So, of the 15 participants, 8 were killed, executed or committed suicide, and another four died within one to 11 years after the conference. I would say that only Hoffmann, Klopfer and Leibbrandt really "got away".
Er ist wieder da. Aber auch dieses Mal wird er nicht siegen!

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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by von thoma » 19 May 2016 08:22

14.) Schöngarth - executed by the British occupation authorities in 1946
Does anyone know, what "terror program without higher authority", Karl Schöngarth committed ?
mediafile-288287-1-SD5.jpg
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Re: The Realism of Conspiracy (refering to the HBO Movie)?

Post by shamirnewell » 19 May 2016 13:41

von thoma wrote:
14.) Schöngarth - executed by the British occupation authorities in 1946
Does anyone know, what "terror program without higher authority", Karl Schöngarth committed ?
mediafile-288287-1-SD5.jpg
He was convicted and hung for the murder of a downed American crewman.

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