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Taking Sides (2001)

Cast: Harvey Keitel, Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård, more...
Director: István Szabó, István Szabó
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Studio: New Yorker Video
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Politics and Social Issues, Costume Drama/Period Piece, British Drama, UK
Running Time: 105 min.
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Set in Germany in 1946, Taking Sides tells the story of the investigation of Wilhelm Furtwängler (Stellan Skarsgård), the renowned conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras, by the American occupying army. Major Steve Arnold (Harvey Keitel) has been told by his superiors that they want Furtwängler convicted of being a willing participant in the crimes of the Hitler regime, by virtue of his supposed support for and support from the Hitler government. They haven't got the time or resources to go after every ex-Nazi, so they want Furtwängler, as the biggest cultural target they can hit. Arnold does his loud, boorish best to first humiliate and then attack the conductor over the supposed favoritism that he was shown by Hitler, Goering, Himmler, et al. and his conducting of a concert at the 1934 Nuremberg rally and at Hitler's 53rd birthday. Arnold finds, to his eventual distress but not dissuasion, that nothing is as simple as he would like to make it. His civilian secretary, Emmi Straube (Birgit Minichmayr), a concentration camp survivor whose father was part of the German Army plot to kill Hitler, and Lt. David Wills (Moritz Bleibtreu), a German-born Jew representing the War Crimes Tribunal, keep trying to remind Arnold that life and politics in Germany only deteriorated gradually after 1933, and in ways that couldn't always be anticipated by those who were there. Germans who chose not to leave weren't necessarily casting their lot with Hitler, but with protecting what was decent or even great about Germany, including her orchestras and music. Arnold knows nothing about music and even less about Germany and her people, and won't be deterred from his goal. Wills and Straube wish to resign from working with him, until they realize that they're facing the same choice that Furtwängler faced -- to leave a horrendous situation and have no way of affecting its conduct or outcome, or remain and do their best to stand up for decency and truth. In the process of doing that, they find out that Furtwängler is not only a great artist -- which they knew already -- but a great and brave man, who also has his flaws. The latter include an outsized ego that may have caused him to participate a little too willingly at times in the dangerous game he played of maintaining the excellence of Germany's musical institutions while protecting them (and also many musicians) from the worst ravages of the Nazi regime, at the same time also keeping lesser, more compliant figures from usurping his control. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Cast and Crew Interviews

GreenCine Member Reviews

Guilt and Proper Justice by talltale May 16, 2004 - 7:16 AM PDT
1 out of 3 members found this review helpful
TAKING SIDES is a good film. Though many critics blasted it for various reasons, it holds up just fine for anyone interested in the aftermath of the Holocaust and on whose shoulders blame lies when citizens follow their government leaders into crazy wars. The movie deals with the guilt and proper punishment that ought to be assigned to famous orchestra conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler (by many accounts one of the greatest conductors ever). This man remained in Germany and, although not a member of the Nazi party, still conducted the country's premier orchestra. The somewhat naive and aggressive American military officer in charge of the investigation sees him in black-and-white terms, and thereby hangs the tale. The writing here is good but not great, but the performances do justice to the theme. You will find yourself agreeing and disagreeing with both sides--and probably wondering how you and yours might have reacted under the same circumstances. At least, I hope you'll wonder. That's the point of movies like this--forcing us into other peoples' shoes and contemplating the results. How history will judge Americans for the invasion and destabilization of Iraq, along with the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians, is a question that may come to mind while viewing this unsettling and worthwhile film.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.75)
16 Votes
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