Diplomacy

Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

“Diplomacy” (2014)

As the Allies march towards Paris in 1944, Hitler wants Paris not to fall into enemy’s hands. He has given the order to General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup) that if he leaves Paris, it should be in rubble. Explosives have been placed on some of Paris’s most famous landmarks, like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Opera House. Even worse, the plan is also to blow up most of the bridges in Paris, which will create a massive flood that the city would probably never recover from. The Germans want to leave Paris in as much rubble and chaos as possible. The General is a soldier’s soldier and is determined to carry out his orders, even if it means destroying one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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Diplomacy

Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

After giving the orders to make the final preparations to blow everything up, the General is surprised by the sudden appearance of the Swedish Consul General Raoul Nordling (Andre Dussollier) in his personal quarters. It seems that when the hotel was completed, a secret passage was built so that Napoleon III could visit his mistress without having to go through the front entrance. Nordling is there to give the von Choltitz a letter of terms from the commander of the French forces that are hours away from invading the city. Von Choltitz tears up the letter without reading it, stating that he never will surrender Paris. Now Nordling must use every diplomatic skill he has to try and convince Von Choltitz not to blow up “The City of Lights.”

Diplomacy

Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

This is a fascinating film about the struggle to convince one man not to destroy one of the great cities of the world. The French cared so much about their city that they gave up Paris to the invading Germans without a fight. They felt it was more important to preserve their beautiful city, rather than subject it to the ravages of war. It’s not only a film about the debate over duty to country and the flag verses the greater good, but also about love of family verses the commitment to something that you know is wrong. The conversation flows between the two characters as Nordling struggles to make headway with the determined and head strong general.

The script by Cyril Gely and director Volker Schlondorff is filled with sparkling dialogue and intelligent banter as the two discuss the many sides of the debate. The film takes place in real time as the Allied forces are moving quickly into the Paris outskirts, creating quite a tense feeling.  The men feel the pressure of having to make a decision that could change the world.

Diplomacy

Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

The film is bolstered by the great performances of the two leads. Andre Dussollier is perfect in the role of the compassionate and thoughtful Nordling. Dussollier is a wonderful contrast to the blustery, stern Niels Arestrup, who plays the general. Dussollier lets the role just roll off of him, never raising his voice and always seems to be in the corner of the room. Arestrup dominates the scenes; as well, he should, playing the fiery general who has served his country well. They play off each other incredibly well and the conversation flow naturally.

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Volker Schlondorff does a remarkable job directing this film. While the bulk of this film takes place in the bedroom of the general, the movie never feels stagey or dull. The film creates a tension that is felt from the start of the film and builds as the story goes along. It’s the mark of a well-constructed plot, when we know the outcome, but still worry that it could end in a different result.

“Diplomacy” is an interesting, complex film that explores the conflicts that war always raises. Do we put the welfare of the few in front of the welfare of the many? And can man overcome his need for conquest and revenge in order to preserve the beauty of the world?    My Rating: Full Price

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

Review by Michael McKinney

“Diplomacy” is playing exclusively in the Atlanta area at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

“Diplomacy” Website

 

 

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