Alone in Berlin is the story of Anna and Otto Quangel (Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson) in 19040 Nazi Germany, who receive news that their only son has died in the war. Both of the characters deal with this news differently, but there was very little communication between the two of them for a while. Anna was visually upset, we see a moment where she is in the local shop buying her groceries and she just physically cannot speak. Otto pushed on at work and came across more angry than upset.
Various situations take place within the building block they live as a result of the Nazis, an elderly Jewish woman living on the top floor, has been hiding for some time, until she is attacked and her house is burgled. Others in the block take her in. Someone sees that and the following day the person’s house is searched, looking for her. We see characters being suppressed in the Nazi regime, limited in their activities and movement.
A few days after the Quangel family receive the news of their son dying at war, Otto decides to start writing postcards. On these postcards he writes messages about Hitler and the Nazi regime, saying that Hitler is a liar and that he is going to kill everyone, each one sporting the phrase “Free Press”.
All these postcards are placed in random locations, on the stairwell of an office, on the floor of a hotel. It’s a very moving story, showing that Anna and Otto want to be listened to and want to have the opportunity to tell people the pain they experienced in losing their son. As Anna and Otto place more and more postcards, the police start to be passed these postcards and the investigation and the hunt begins, but the search for who is placing these postcards is difficult. Otto wears gloves when writing the cards and makes sure he is not seen when placing them. The investigator says that they just have to wait for the perpetrator to make a mistake.
One of the concerns I had is that there was a very odd mixture between German and English. The cast spoke, and the story was told in English, but the writing and other parts of the story were in German. It was an odd combination, a combination that didn’t suit everyone. In the press conference they said it was to make the story more accessible and to be able to tell this story to a larger audience. I think they just about got away with the language combination used, it was enough to make it feel like a German scene and a German story without making the story misunderstood.
The acting in this movie was spot on, Thompson and Gleeson really showed the emotion of their characters well, equally Daniel Brühl, who was the investigator, did a fantastic job and really showed how his character was also being bought round to have the same view as Otto towards the Hitler regime.
Vincent Perez’s interpretation of this story was great to see. It’s not often we see stories from those who were stuck within the Nazi regime; it’s usually from those fighting against the Nazi regime. At points, this is a particularly intense movie, but well worth the watch.