Tuesday, 21 July 2015
Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Original title: Elser
13 Minutes is the story of Georg Elser (Christian Friedel), who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1939 by planting a bomb in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich, where Hitler was due to give a speech. However, unforeseen events led to Hitler leaving the venue 13 minutes before the detonation. Elser is captured and tortured by high-ranking officials (including Arthur Nebe, who would later take part in the Stauffenberg plot) who are adamant that he couldn’t have acted alone and set out to identify his accomplices. Having initially withstood the pain, Elser begins to talk when they threaten his loved ones.
The scenes of torture, and of Elser explaining how he built the bomb, are intercut with flashbacks from his life. Working by Lake Constance as a musician and clockmaker, Elser has to return to Königsbrunn to help his alcoholic father and suffering mother. He falls in love with a married woman and watches the rise of the Nazis and the escalation of conflict in his home town. Ultimately, he decides to take matters into his own hands.
Naturally, this film contains scenes of torture, as well as hanging and domestic violence. Depending on your point of view, the effect of cutting away from the torture to Elser’s earlier life could vary – welcome respite from his suffering, or awkward cinematic device. Christian Friedel gives a great performance, and this is definitely a story worth telling, but I found this to be a fairly average film. Having said that, we get so few German films in UK cinemas that I’m not going to complain too much!