This is no history lesson (if I want to have accurate information I grab a history book) but a work of art by anti-Fascist German artists, a unique cooperation between Fritz Lang, Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler. Of course it is a propaganda film (like Curtiz' "Casablanca" in 1942), but its subject - told in a very sophisticated way - is the dynamics of resistance (or the way the artists imagined/desired it).
This film is about silence, where most WW2 films(Schindler’s List!!!) is about noise. In the
ellipses, one can hear a cry of agony. The cry is silent, therefore louder than bombs. This cry is a single person's cry, yet the cry of all humanity. The pain and the courage in the film is as recognizable as the sun, because it is not made artificial in the filmmaking process.
You need only to watch Lang's last films in Germany and first in America to see how much he feared the crowd becoming a mob. But suppose a place where a conspiracy of the crowd was justice? It is propaganda, with very American "Czechs", a tin-eared patriotic poetry jam, and Hollywoodisms that Brecht hated. Still, allow that its director wanted to be broadly urgent more than pure, and it can be thrillingly calculated.
Exactly what one might expect from a collaboration between Lang & Brecht; a didactic political story full of straight-to-camera sermonising, scathing anti-fascist rhetoric & a brazenly artificial approach. Lang's direction is impeccable; his use of deep focus imagery & expressionist shadowplay predict film noir; but it's the themes of scapegoats & persecution, of people turned against each other, that really lingers.
Bertolt BRECHT - Fritz LANG - HERITAGE de l'EXPRESSIONNISME ALLEMAND
Written by John Wexley from a story by Bertolt Brecht and Lang.
Film racontant l'assassinat du chef nazi Heydrich sous forme de fiction. C'est l'unique scénario de Bertolt Brecht pour le cinéma d'Hollywood.
Fritz Lang's politically-minded suspense drama is most interesting as a document of its era, but also works as a thriller. It's heavy-handed with its political ideologies, the acting is dated, and it goes on far too long - but a morally complex plot, several memorable moments, and Lang's taut filmmaking keep it compelling.
The scenes with Reinhard Heydrich and Emil Czaka, the conspiracy against Czaka, the crowd seen as a friendly ally (Brecht) or as versatile (Lang), the shot of Heydrich in his bed at the hospital, Gestapo Insp. Alois Gruber's life and death, the final credits (Not the End). A DVD zone your library.
3 1/3 out of 5 stars. Hangmen Also Die started off as a decent but dated indictment against the Nazis. Fair but stale until the halfway point where it became apparent to me the movie wasn't a drama about any of its characters but more of a documentary about the fight of good against evil. It requires a little patience from the viewer but is worth the payoff.