Special treatment. Evacuation. Natural reduction. The concealing terms fly across the table in The Wannsee Conference, a fact-based feature film about a historic meeting in Berlin. Fifteen high representatives of the SS, the NSDAP and various German ministries, invited by Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich for a ‘discussion with lunch’, decided on 20 January 1942 about the fate of the 11 million Jews who, according to their count, found themselves in the Nazi-occupied territory. occupied Europe.
The ‘Final Solution’, so wanted by Hitler, a definitive solution, that’s what it’s all about. The Jews must disappear. Previous plans to emigrate, ship them to Madagascar or send them to the Siberian swamps have long since been shelved. The ghettos in Eastern Europe are overcrowded, and a concentration camp is already in use in Auschwitz. No matter how much they talk about it, the assignment is crystal clear to all those present. A genocide is being planned here.
Director Matti Geschonneck filmed the horror meeting in a minimalistic way. Without film music, with an unobtrusive editing and modest acting shows The Wannsee Conference what could have happened that day. Fifteen men gather for a meeting and get back into their car about two hours later. In the meantime, they worry about rules, hierarchy, and responsibilities—as they do at so many business meetings. No one questions the purpose of the meeting.
Geschonneck’s approach is daring, because who wants to see a film that has nothing to offer but a couple of talking men (and a female note-taker) in one room? In which not a single sympathetic character appears? The latter is particularly radical, as you quickly notice as a film viewer. As usual, you look for someone to empathize with, but the film repeatedly sends you into the woods. And it is precisely because of that unforgiving, bare-bones approach that The Wannsee Conference so relentlessly good.
In the screenplay by Magnus Vattrodt (based on a play by Paul Mommertz, previously filmed for German television in 1984), everyone is equally cold and polite, from Heydrich (played smoothly by Philipp Hochmair) to the overzealous Adolf Eichmann (Johannes Allmayer). ). No one raises their voice. People talk about ‘optimizing existing processes’, distributing free-falling Jewish wealth and preventing social unrest.
Whether this really happened remains a mystery: minutes of the Wannsee conference have been preserved, but they are concise. In any case, Geschonneck has succeeded in providing a frighteningly convincing picture of the machinations of fascism. The propaganda, the shifting of blame (“If we don’t destroy them, they will destroy us”), the distortions (“Judaism has forced this war on us”) and above all the mundaneness of talking about mass murder, are specter and warning in one. .
The Wannsee Conference
Directed by Matti Geschonneck.
With Philipp Hochmair, Johannes Allmayer, Maximilian Bruckner, Fabian Busch.
108 min., in 24 halls.