Diplomatie (12a)

Sep 07, 2016
Cranbrook Film Society

“The performances are excellent.”
– The Guardian.

Late summer 1944, the Nazis decided if they could not have Paris, no one else would either. The film shows a pivotal historical moment, seen through the verbal interaction of two very different personalities – beautifully shot and undeniably gripping.

Volker Schlöndorff | France/Germany | 2014 | 84 mins | 12a


Diplomatie is a 2014 Franco-German historical drama directed by Volker Schlöndorff and adapted from the play Diplomatie by Cyril Gely. The film premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival on 12th February 2014. It was also screened at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2014. It won the César Award for Best Adaptation at the 40th César Awards.

We often think of history as inevitable outcomes, but sometimes forget that many things we hold dear were poised in the balance in real history. In late summer 1944, the L’Arc de Triomphe, la Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, and the many ancient and modern streets of Paris could have been blown into oblivion in less than one day. Towards the end of August 1944, the allies had retaken many of the Reich’s former strongholds such as Rome and Tripoli. And now the allies were on the borders of German-occupied Paris about to storm and retake the famous French city.

When the Reich realized they had no chance of preventing the allies from liberating the city from German occupation, Adolph Hitler gave orders to destroy Paris and lay it waste. It would be destruction on a massive scale that would not only destroy one of the most beautiful cities in the world but also murder millions of its citizens. For 3 to 4 days, General Von Choltitz, then German general in charge of Paris, orchestrated his young soldiers and engineers to plant hidden explosives under the many bridges over the Seine. Explosive U-boat torpedoes were also deployed in tunnels under the city that, if ignited, would destroy the city centre.

At the beginning of the film, General Choltitz meets with his top commanders to plan the process. The General then receives a visitor, Raoul Nordling of the Swedish Consulate in Paris. (In fact, the man who visited the general was Pierre Charles Tattinger, the mayor of Paris. For dramatic purposes, the characters of Tattinger and Nordling have been combined into a single person.) The film becomes a well- scripted dialogue between Nordling and Choltitz. The director acknowledged at the Berlin Festival that “the meeting did not happen at all how I directed it”, but claims that Nordling and Choltitz met frequently to discuss prisoner exchange and a truce. But whatever the historical background, the film has true psychological suspense and excellent performances from the two principals. It’s a compelling game of cat and mouse.

Isabelle Lavigne-Kidney


            Weighted vote 91.8%