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Im toten Winkel - Hitlers Sekretärin (Blind Spot)

(2003) *** Pg
90 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Directors: Andre Heller (II), Othmar Schmiderer (II). Cast: Traudl Junge, Andre Heller (II).

In his brilliant Crimes and Misdemeanors, Allen's documentary filmmaker takes a job shooting a documentary about an insufferable TV producer played by Alan Alda. As an antidote, he retreats to his own film in the editing room, an uncompromising, "talking head" documentary about fictional philosophy professor Louis Levy, whose discussion of paradox in fact describes his own blend of optimism and suicidal tendencies.

Even Allen might be surprised to see how insistently unadorned is Blind Spot—Hitler's Secretary, an Austrian documentary which makes no concession to conventional style, instead presenting ninety minutes of one talking head (no archival photos, no narration, no observational B-roll footage). That the film is, nevertheless, consistently diverting testifies to both the worthiness of the historical record and our own fascination with evil.

Blind Spot—Hitler's Secretary lets Traudl Junge (née Humps) tell her own story in her own words, tracing how a 22-year-old woman became private secretary to the führer. Junge stayed with Hitler to the bitter end, taking down his last will and testament and being just yards away from him at the moment of his suicide.

Junge, 80 at the time of filming, died of cancer hours after the film's world premiere and days after the publication of her memoirs. André Heller, who conducted the interviews (Othmar Schmiderer manned the camera), believes Junge knew she was dying, and resolved herself to tell the whole story after decades of virtual silence.

Junge's revelations--as arranged by the filmmakers--range from macabre to mundane. Though Heller and Schmiderer allow a touch of redundancy, the fascination is in the details, and Junge exhibits remarkable recall. Her recollections become found poetry, as she describes the führer's headquarters nestled in the dark forest and the "shadowy existence" of the final days. She also describes Hitler's disturbing humanity: his dislike of warm rooms, his affable and gentlemanly manner, his pride and affection for his dog Blondie.

Junge's vocal and facial expression is somewhat limited, but her ability to expound at length with little prompting powers the film. Her volubility intensifies as she describes the last days at the bunker; when her memories spill out forcefully, she must stop herself, backtrack, and fill in every detail. One suspects necessity may have been the mother of unimbellished invention, but the filmmakers do offer one clever variation, showing us Junge watching and listening to herself on camera.

Junge describes Hitler, in clear-headed hindsight, as a mass of contradictions but undeniably criminal and disturbed. She describes a "general policy of denial" that allowed Hitler to turn a blind eye to bombed and devastated cities. Junge's own self-confessed "blind spot" of youthful thoughtlessness tortured her for the rest of her life, and she professes to be unsure if she can ever forgive herself. As such, Blind Spot—Hitler's Secretary makes the important, evergreen point that political wantonness can only flourish in an atmosphere of ignorance and passivity.

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