Monday, 28 January 2013


When I was writing up my review of Laurent Binet's novel/blog/series-of-unfortunate-events HHhH last night, I planned to mention my previous encounters with Reinhard Heydrich. Not personal encounters, thank goodness; Heydrich died in 1942 and was perhaps one of the most terrifying and deadly members of the Nazi administration -- which is saying something. However, I'm doing NaBloPoMo this month and I submitted my post within minutes of midnight as it was.

Binet mentions the television film Conspiracy in his book, which is indeed a memorable movie about the Wannsee Conference with a cast featuring such remarkable actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, David Threlfall, Colin Firth, plus about a dozen other actors who are familiar, not because they are famous, but because they are hardworking British (mostly) character actors.

Here is a taste of Branagh's and Tucci's interpretation of how Heydrich and Eichmann ran the meeting:

However, as chilling as Conspiracy is, the production team couldn't resist adding dramatic tension by making Threlfall's character and Firth's character more sympathetic, "good Nazis" (with some scruples, however faint) to contrast with the "more evil Nazis" (no scruples whatsoever). It's a disturbing aspect of an already disturbing reenactment.

Besides, I couldn't help comparing it with The Wannsee Conference (Die Wannseekonferenz)(1984). I stumbled upon this late one night on a PBS channel some years ago. At the time, I was bewildered, having never heard of the Wannsee Conference. I saw men, in various Nazi uniforms, chatting genially, sipping drinks, then sitting through what appeared to be a typical business meeting complete with maps and graphs. It makes the agenda all the more horrifying. No added drama is needed:

Heydrich, the "Butcher of Prague", is portrayed here by Dietrich Mattausch a busy and distinguished German actor who was born, ironically enough, in Sudetenland, now part of the Czech Republic.

A couple of years ago, I read an online review of this film by someone who had attended several business meetings in Germany. He said they were much like this one. Presumably without the swastikas and the outline for the murder of millions.

Maybe I've had enough of this kind of thing for a while. I've been having nightmares. On the other hand, just wait until you hear what else I've been reading this month...

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