Friday, 23 June 2017

HHhH/The Man With The Iron Heart Film Review

I caught HHhH/The Man With The Iron Heart this week in France, directed by Cédric Jimenez. There is no release date slated for the US and UK.

The film begins with an assassination attempt on the life of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, and then goes back to 1932 when Germany is suffering and struggling after WWI in the Weimar Republic. Reinhard is a young naval officer played by Jason Clarke, making his way up the ranks. But had a weakness; a secret lover. And then one fortuitous evening he met Lina von Osten, played by Rosamund Pike. A beautiful young well-to-do woman. The attraction is instant, they date and she takes him to meet her parents. The von Osten family are among those suffering in Germany, but Lina says that when the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler comes to power, then Germany will be great again. Read his book Mein Kampf she urges.

But as their wedding approaches the secret lover reappears and Reinhard is court martialled. We see him losing his self control, an incandescent rage overcomes him as mirrors are smashed and furniture broken. Lina appears and tells him to stop crying and he needs to start acting like her husband if he wants to be her husband. They marry, and he is interviewed by Heinrich Himmler, played by Stephen Graham, who is starting a group called the SS that will coordinate all Nazi intelligence. A glittering future beckons with the cold and ruthless SS.

Hitler is elected chancellor, and Reinhard takes his mountain of rage and over the years applies himself to purifying Germany, and those countries they have conquered. Eventually adding up the inordinate amount of Jews in these countries he determined there needed to be a better way to purify. Or exterminate. And comes up with his Final Solution. The man described by Hitler as the man with the iron heart. How could someone have come up with this idea? And why I always ask were the Jewish so singled out?

As Reinhard is preparing his Final Solution in 1942, a group of Czech soldiers are training in Scotland when they are sent their orders to carry out the assassination. Among them are Josef, Jan and Valcik, played by Jack O'Connell, Jack Reynor and Thomas M.Wright. The boys are brothers in arms fighting for their beloved country. They are to meet up with the 3 Kings Resistance in Prague where Reinhard and Lina are now based. To blend in with the locals with the help of local girls Mia Wasikowska, Céline Sallette and Abigail Lawrie.

I found the film gripping and the characters in the true story immensely interesting. It made me want to find out more about the events depicted.  Although I find the Final Solution so disturbing that I will never be able to read or watch the detailed history of it. And of course the question I always ask is could we have done what was needed to be done? Those brave men and women of the resistance putting their lives on the line. And they are asked whether they are being selfish putting their loved ones lives on the line too, as we see in heart breaking detail. Young Noah Jupe playing a scene that no child in reality should ever have been put through.

Jason Clarke was startling in his portrayal of a man so coldly committed to violence and needless murder. Rosamund Pike was her usual incredible self and I wondered whether as Lina she was aware that she had created this monster. There seemed a moment in the film when she was, but it was probably unlikely as the Nazi methods were so well hidden, and she seemed to have little to do with his work. But Reinhard was as brutal with her mentally as he was brutal with those who were not pure Aryans.

Jack O'Connell, Jack Raynor and Thomas M.Wright as the Czech soldiers were amazing. And it was because men like them were prepared to do what was needed that eventually the war was won.

An amazing film depicting a truly terrible time in our history, and I hope that it gets a wider release.

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