Germany | Poland | Portugal | France 2017
Opening March 15, 2018
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Writing credits: Robert Schwentke
Principal actors: Max Hubacher, Milan Peschel, Frederick Lau
Two weeks before the end of World War II, April 1945, German soldier Will Herold (Hubacher) runs away from his troop, chased by a jeep full of yelling soldiers. He manages to escape, but has no place to hide or any prospects for survival until he finds the uniform of a German air force captain (German: Hauptmann) in an abandoned jeep. It fits him, and, to his own amazement, other soldiers, also separated from their units, are grateful to find him and follow his lead as “captain.” He assumes the role of command and slowly develops into what one could expect from an dedicated Nazi: screaming, pushing, killing, and “heiling Hitler.” He and his “men” move from the fields into a small town, which he takes over, thereby eliminating the mayor of the town. They plunder without regret and soon accept women into their circle. Perhaps, in the beginning, Herold could have regretted his actions, which were contrary to his original beliefs, and stop this impersonation. Now it’s too late: higher Nazi officials also accept him as a leader and prescribe further deeds, fitting to his status. He is caught between choosing between Nazi demands and his own conscience – what little conscience is left.
This is based on the true story of Willi Herold, age 19. He trained to be a chimney sweep and then was inducted into the military close to the end of the war. The story is quite effective in black and white, with very little background music. The story calls upon all of us to consider how we would react in a similar situation. Is there a turning point or does power generate lust for more? Where does it end and who would act differently? After the war, the real Herold is judged in a military court and executed on November 14, 1946, age 21. (