Alone in Berlin is based the true story of Otto and Elise Hampel (named Otto and Elise Quangel in the film) who, after their son dies in 1940 while fighting in WW2, silently protest by writing postcards criticizing Hitler and the Nazi regime and urging others to protest against it. Over the space of three years they drop close to 300 postcards condemning Hitler’s campaign. Otto and Elise are eventually caught in 1943 and sentenced to death by guillotine. It is a brave and interesting story and one that the film does not do justice.
The film lacks suspense and audience engagement throughout. The danger of Otto and Elise writing the postcards is not fully conveyed and, until the tragic end, the film is monotonous and slow, sparking little interest and concern from the viewer. Despite the film being set in WW2 in Nazi Germany, it is not as haunting and horrific as the viewer might expect. It is unable to capture the intensity of the past that would also speak to the present. What should have been a powerfully emotional film turned into a rather bland one.
However, Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson served the memories of Otto and Elise Hampel well by giving great performances. They had impressive on screen chemistry and really seemed like an old married couple as well as effectively portraying the hopelessness of the characters’ position. They show that, after their son died, they have ‘nothing to live for’, and how they got into writing the postcards speaking against Hitler. However, I didn’t find the performances of the supporting cast to be particularly good.
Perhaps with better scripting and casting for the minor characters the film may have turned out better. Director Vincent Perez failed to create any suspense and the filmed never really took off. Better scripting could have turned dull scenes into much more tense and heartfelt ones. All in all, the film scrapes through on the intensity of the true story, yet the horror of the true story is not properly conveyed. It is a disappointment that the final product is as lacklustre a drama as it is.