Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Greenbelt 3 Cinemas 
On the evening of August 24, 1944 - the Allied Forces were closing in on the German troops. One man was assigned a herculean task by the Fuhrer Hitler -destroy the city of Paris as revenge for the Allied bombing of Berlin. His name was General Von Choltitz, the military governor of  Paris, France. Famous sights in the French capital like the Arc of Triomphe, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral were all rigged with explosives. 

Cue in Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling. The consul appears unannounced using a secret staircase and gains entrance into the suite/office, he is there to persuade Von Choltitz to defy Hitler's orders. 

Scenes of the film which was adapted from a 2011 stage play by Cyril Gely are mostly confined to the suite of the General who has set camp in the elegant Hotel Meurice in the center of Paris.

Naturally, it is dialogue driven as the two main characters play a cunning game of cat and mouse as the clock is ticking away. A forceful battle of wits ensues as Nordling appeals to the General's humanity to spare the city of Paris. He reminds him of the cultural importance of the city as well as the million of lives that would be lost when Paris is destroyed. They reminisce about their lives before the war and also talk about their families. 

The Consul is sly, manipulative and also for lack of a better word, diplomatic. But this doesn't make it any easier for the General. Von Choltitz is portrayed as an iron willed military officer who has never disobeyed Hitler's orders. Caught in a delicate predicament, he is visibly torn between his duty to his superiors and his responsibility to save mankind and preserve the culture of a great city.

The two actors who portray these important characters are veteran French thespians who are reprising roles they have already played to great acclaim in the stage play. It is fascinating to watch them argue, persuade, convince, dissuade and argue some more. Their repartee was excellent and I think they can even do these roles in their sleep. 

Of course, we all know that General Von Choltitz had a change of heart so Paris retains its title as the city of lights. But throughout the film, the suspense of the 'what if' scenario kept the audience at the edge of their seats.

"Diplomatie" is highly recommended and my favorite film of all the movies I watched during this year's French Festival. Its themes are close to my heart (diplomacy and history) and Paris (my fave city in the world) is highlighted for its cultural importance.

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