Ducking out for the weekend, but I’m seeding a couple entries in lieu of any groundbreaking commentary about the assload of money the newest Harry Potter flick continues to gross, including another pick-up from the way-back Internet archives — this 2002 review of one of the best-named documentaries of the past decade. Does not liking it make me a Nazi sympathizer, though? To wit:
It’s scary but also instructive to witness the way we deify our heroes and demonize and dehumanize our greatest villains. Less than six decades out, it’s quite easy to think of Adolf Hitler as a monster. But when you contemplate the human side of him — as the film Max, a portrait of Hitler’s post-World War I time as a struggling artist and young politico, at least attempted to do, with mixed results — the effect is often mind-boggling, if not downright surreal. Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary has a title that hits you over the head and demands your attention, if only because it makes you stop and weigh the absurd notion of someone taking dictation and chatting amiably with the 20th century’s most murderous, fanatically unhinged totalitarian.
If it’s hard to identify with the point-of-view being offered up here, this 85-minute documentary at least offers some fantastic firsthand insight. In the many years following World War II, Traudl Junge refused to discuss her story, spurning journalists who approached her for interviews and often denying — many times successfully — her role altogether. It was too taxing on her psyche, she explained, and she couldn’t understand “that young, stupid girl” she once was. Almost 60 years later, the octogenarian finally sat for a series of straightforward conversations, resulting in this collaborative project between filmmakers André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer. “I have finally let go of my story, and now I feel the world is letting go of me,” she says at one point, and indeed, Junge passed away one day after the film’s premiere at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival.
What we’re left with in Blind Spot, though, is a fascinating opportunity shoddily explored. Comprised of two interview sessions and shot in extreme close-up throughout, the film is static and shapeless; there’s little sense of continuity, and only occasionally do we get a snippet of a question, or any semblance of a shaping hand. So Junge continually professes her naiveté — not an unreasonable assertion, given that she was a provincial girl barely in her 20s when she started working for Hitler and, strangely enough, never even a member of the Nazi party — and offers anecdotal but hardly probing stories of how Hitler and the rest of his cadre, including Eva Braun, spent their time in underground German bunkers.
It’s here that you quickly realize Blind Spot isn’t a true documentary examination of its nominal subject’s infamous boss, or even Junge herself for that matter. Its complete lack of supporting or achived materials to give Junge’s memories a sense of either scope or specificity is egregious. The film — a monologue, really — might as well be a book or a magazine article, for it would serve exactly the same purpose, and likely fare much better in those mediums. What does emerge from Blind Spot, however, almost in spite of itself, is a sense of Hitler’s cracked twilight welfare. Scared, broken, depressed and paranoid (convinced the cyanide capsules given to him by a general were a part of an elaborate ruse of betrayal, he tested several on his dog, Blondie, who died and, in Junge’s words, left the bunker smelling like “bitter almonds”), Hitler had a pathological aversion to being taken alive.
And maybe that’s a good thing, knowing that Hitler was a big coward, and in his final weeks lived a desolate, darkly reflective existence, apprehending that virtually the entire world was closing in on him, and his grand schemes of a dominant motherland were now nothing more than pipe dreams. But take me at my word: you needn’t sit through Blind Spot to discover it for yourself. For once, in this instance, secondhand catharsis is just as good as the real thing. (Sony Pictures Classics, PG, 85 minutes)