Before the Fall

Rated NR 2006

Dennis Gansel's disturbing feature explores a little-known detail of the Nazi horror: the recruitment of more than 15,000 young men into elite training schools, where they were groomed as athletes, soldiers, and "ideologically correct" scholars. These youths, Adolf Hitler proclaimed in 1938, "will learn to think German and to act German -- and nothing else." Set in 1942, as the military fortunes of the Third Reich began to wane, the film focuses on a promising young boxer from a working-class family, Friedrich Weimer (Max Riemelt), who has a taste for violence in the ring, and on his aristocratic friend, Albrecht Stein (Tom Schilling), whose sensitivity contradicts the regime's obsession with Aryan supermen. Trained to be a soulless killer, Friedrich nonetheless undergoes a crisis of conscience when several tragedies, including the slaughter of some young Russian prisoners of war, envelop the students. As this fascinating moral drama turns its attention to the battle for the young man's soul, Gansel finds in him the deeper concerns of an entire society blinded by a lie.

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