Monday, May 17, 2021

Final Account Review: A Fascinating And Terrifying Account of Nazi Germany

Release date: May 21, 2021
Running time: 94 minutes        
Directed by: Luke Holland

Final Account is an urgent portrait of the last living generation of everyday people to participate in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Over a decade in the making, the film raises vital, timely questions about authority, conformity, complicity and perpetration, national identity, and responsibility, as men and women ranging from former SS members to civilians in never-before-seen interviews reckon with – in very different ways – their memories, perceptions and personal appraisals of their own roles in the greatest human crimes in history. 

As you would expect from a documentary about this subject matter, Final Account has a serious tone.  The film starts with grave classical music to give you a sense of the gravity of the topics that will be discussed.  It is an eyewitness account of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, but it is also so much more than that.  The film is full of great factual interviews that generally do not mince words or skirt the questions.  You can see how these former SS soldiers felt about what they did in the name of Germany, and this is coupled with some amazing old footage and pictures.  Seeing their modern look compared to their time during the war is sometimes striking to see.  And also seeing them recollect on their time in the war and what they did and did not do is fascinating.

But Final Account also highlights the process that these youths were recruited.  Some joined because they believed in the cause, but others joined simply for a sense of belonging or to take advantage of some of the public places that were only open to Nazis.  It does not dull what eventually happened, but it is an interesting look into how one can be slowly indoctrinated.  What was striking is that often times the early parts of Nazi Germany seemed normal and idyllic.  Kids playing in the park, swimming in pools, and playing war; all of these do not foreshadow the atrocities that eventually occurred.  And the film also interviews a surprising number of former SS soldiers, with various levels of regret.  There was a great interaction between a former soldier speaking to a youth group and a younger, apparently right wing youth.  Seeing their differences of opinions and how some of the lures of Nazi Germany are still alive today was something to behold.  Some soldiers are ashamed of what they did and some are proud of it.  It is terrifying but also fascinating to see the denial that a few of the soldiers had.  I commend their courage for speaking on camera but I also am horrified by what they said.  It is an important reminder that even though their sins are in the past, the stain of those actions are still fresh.  

If Final Account has any negatives, it is that it is relatively unstructured. I think this is to put the interviews front and center without much narrative, but it does lead to long sections where you just hear account after account.  Granted, this is the most important aspect of Final Account, so I can't fault the film for trying to focus on these people, but it does lead to a movie that can feel like an hour and a half conversation.  But what a fascinating conversation that is; one that is sadly still very relevant today.

Final Account is a fascinating and terrifying documentary about life in Nazi Germany and the effect it had on those who lived through it, from regular civilians to Hitler's SS soldiers.   

Watch it.

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following us on our various social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagramYoutube. Final Account is available in theaters on May 21, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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