Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NAPOLA * * *

NAPOLA (English name: Before the Fall) is a movie set in the National Political Elite schools of the National Socialists (Nazis) in the 1933-1945 period. At the height, there were about 40 of these schools that aimed to turn young men into the leaders needed for for the worldwide German empire. In many ways, this movie reminded me of Dead Poets Society with no Robin Williams character. Saying that, I've just revealed the entire plot -- yes this movie suffers from predictability. But it is well done and the cinematography is very nice.

The film semi-effectively shows how otherwise decent young men could get sucked into and worked up by both the Nazi fanaticism and the seduction of a uniform. Although it really has a Hollywood feel to it so this part seems quite real. It also conveys the "island paradise" aspect of these schools. The film is set in 1943, when the war is going badly and people are really suffering from food-rationing, but the boys have enough to eat and have fun adventures like going gliding. A man who who had been in a Napola commented on this very aspect of the schools. This film ends with the note that at the end of the war, the boys in the schools were sent to fight. They fought fanatically and suffered 50% casualties in an utter waste of life.

For some very odd reason, Amazon classifies this as a gay film (and apparently whoever made the US DVD cover thought the same thing). However, that's like calling the Dead Poets Society a gay film because it involves young men. Before the Fall involves two young men who are close friends, but they are not friends. However, it's true that the main character is a pretty young man who does spend more time than necessary with his shirt off. Personally, I didn't think this was a bad thing.

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