One has to wonder at the logic and sensitivity exhibited by those faceless men and women who orchestrate and organise the UK’s television schedules. I’ve been considering this ever since I caught Olivier Hirschbiegel’s Downfall, a portrait of the last days of Adolf Hitler in his bunker, playing out over the Easter weekend.
Ben-Hur I can understand. Perhaps even The Great Escape. Plus a little bit of Morecambe and Wise. But Hitler? You must be joking.
It didn’t escape me that the Fuhrer was born on April 20 in 1889. But that was 125 years ago and I’m deeply uncomfortable with the notion that somebody, somewhere, might have thought it appropriate to mark the occasion with a screening.
An anniversary presents a convenient hook on which to hang a screening of a movie. This year marks the centenary of the births of both Dylan Thomas and Alec Guinness and I have no issue with celebrations surrounding either the Welsh bard or that most chameleon-like of thesps.
But Hitler? Really? At Easter? I suppose the quasquicentennial is something to consider. Plus the Fuhrer was in the final stages of his downward spiral as he marked his final birthday deep below the shattered streets of Berlin. Maybe it’s just unfortunate that in 2014 it coincided with this most important of Christian festivals.
There is another element to consider. If one puts aside the anniversary then maybe someone is offering up a warning from history. Through 21st-century eyes Hitler’s posturing resembles something from a dark and humourless anti-pantomime. What’s more the man with the funny hair and the little moustache is its ultimate villain.
Yet there was – and still is – nothing remotely funny about Adolf Hitler. Satirise him, mock him, impersonate him with outsize swastika and baggy shorts à la Freddie Starr. But never underestimate him, even now.
With the insidious rise of the far right all over the world – Hitler and his policies live on. It’s like a cancer.
Could one of those anonymous TV programmers have been thinking outside the box when it came to the Easter schedules this year?
I would like to think that somebody, somewhere is presenting this remarkable movie (with its equally remarkable central performance from Bruno Ganz as Hitler) to shout “Look! Wake up! It happened once and it could happen again. Don’t stand by and do nothing. Be aware. Be prepared.”
Of course such quietly subversive behaviour doesn’t happen in real life, only in the movies. Yet I’m all for the concept of a modern crusader fighting the good fight with unusual weapons.
And if people won’t take notice of the 24-hour news channels then perhaps a classic movie will do the trick instead.