Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
After the worldwide acclamation with “Downfall” in 2004, the German director, Oliver Hirschbiegel, returns to the topic of Nazism with the passable biopic “13 Minutes”, which chronicles the true story of Georg Elser, the man who attempted to assassinate Hitler in Munich in 1939.
Elser, impersonated competently by Christian Friedel, was an ingenious German carpenter, born in Württemberg, whose discontentment about the political situation of his country and his personal life, made him react aggressively against the Fuhrer, situation that cost him years of torture and misery since nobody believed him when he stated he worked without any help.
Elser, who proclaimed not to have any party affiliation, used a homemade bomb fabricated with stolen material, which should be more than enough to turn the Fuhrer into pieces and drag a few more SS officials with him. However, the engine only exploded 13 minutes after Hitler has left the place.
After the machination, we see Elser being arrested and continually interrogated by Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaußner), a key functionary in the security and police apparatus of Nazi Germany, and his superior, Heinrich Müller (Johann von Bülow), leader of the feared Gestapo. While the Fuhrer wanted a formal confession, Goebbels wanted something palpable to say to the press. Amidst lots of questions and rivers of torture, Mr. Hirschbiegel often takes us to Elser’s past through flashbacks. With them, we can have glimpses of the subject’s youth, his conquests, his taste in music, and how he met the love of his life, Elsa (Katharina Schüttler), a married woman who was often mistreated by her brute husband, Erich (Rüdiger Klink).
Even not so powerful in emotional terms, “13 Minutes” gives us some historical background in regard to this particular occurrence. Clearly, the dramatization could be better nuanced while some parts of the narrative (especially the first flashbacks) seem a bit dislocated. To compensate these less positive aspects, I can mention the tight and polished direction by Mr. Hirschbiegel and the inviting cinematography by Judith Kaufmann (co-director of “Two Lives”).