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'Munich on the eve of a war': this is how the monster was born

Young idealists, in a world far from ideal. The intellectual, ethical, political and human dreams of a couple of students, a German and an Englishman, at Oxford in 1932, eager to take on the world. But the world, just a few steps later, became inedible, ungovernable, little given to hope. Munich on the Eve of War, British film based on the novel Munich, by bestselling writer Robert Harris, opens with that prologue in the quintessential student city and, from there and after an ellipsis until the prolegomena of the Second World War, he delves into the historic Munich Agreements, in the fall of 1938, those of the beginning of the end, when the world wanted to temporize with Adolf Hitler and the thorny issue of the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, to do realpolitik with a monster that pointed out ways, but that had not yet displayed all its barbarism.

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In his first film in the UK, German director Christian Schwochow has composed a work that is essentially diplomatic and political, but which deviates with a certain verve towards espionage and suspense, and which always maintains the remarkable intellectual appeal of the characters: that of those two young men from Oxford, who later became, respectively, the secretary of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and one of the German diplomats at the conference.

Confronted both in the past in a brutal discussion, narrated in the form of flashback and with a good text by Schwochow, because of the affections of the young German for Hitler just before he won the elections, and based on “the return of the pride of being Germans”, the present gives them the opportunity to clarify those positions. With a nervous camera, ideal for shaky times, but without disturbing, the director narrates his story with elegance, passion and reflection.

The final part of Munich on the eve of a war, however, is by far the most debatable. There is a sequence of physical fight between one of Hitler's bodyguards and Chamberlain's young secretary that, directly, seems from a different film, much thicker; a final twist related to one of the British secretaries, with a certain aspect of deus ex machina; a couple of dialogues that are too composed, of those that set off the alarm bells of veracity because they point to a very clear contemporary writing, from the remains of what we know happened later, and that instead of turning the characters who say them into clairvoyants, they smack of the moral salvation army of those same roles. Thus, in the last few minutes, the laundering of Chamberlain's negligible historical prestige seems excessive.

They are not a few flaws in a film that was almost pristine until then, perhaps of limited height, but always noble and relatively deep. Even so, that final confusion does not end up overshadowing its virtues, and the main subtext of the story, very interesting, remains categorically firm: you do not choose the moment in which you live; what is chosen is how to respond to those times.

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MUNICH ON THE EVE OF A WAR

Direction: Christian Schwochow.

Cast: George MacKay, Jannis Niewöhner, Jeremy Irons, Jessica Brown Findlay.

Genre: political drama. United Kingdom, 2021.

Platform: Netflix.

Duration: 123 minutes.

Premiere: January 21.

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