Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel is returning to familiar territory with Nazi-era drama Georg Elser. Billed as an emotional portrait of the resistance fighter who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller on November 8, 1939, the film kicked off shooting yesterday in Wackershofen/Southern Germany. Not to be confused with the July 20, 1944, assassination plot against Hitler that was the subject of Bryan Singer’s 2008 film Valkyrie, Elser’s attempt came five years earlier during what was expected to be a lengthy speech given by the Nazi leader for the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. A bomb Elser had placed behind the lectern detonated — 13 minutes after Hitler had left the platform — and ended up killing eight others. A carpenter from Königsbronn, Elser is thought to have opposed Nazism from the beginning of the regime and later told interrogators that the idea of “eliminating the leadership,” including Hitler, Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels, came to him in the fall of 1938. “I reasoned the situation in Germany could only be modified by a removal of the current leadership,” he said. Elser was arrested the day of the failed attempt, interrogated, tortured and sent to Dachau. In 1945, days before the end of the war, he was executed on Hitler’s orders. The film will follow Elser’s path from the the Swabian Alps to the assassination attempt and his last days in the concentration camp.
Hirschbiegel, who had a misstep with the savaged Diana biopic last year, also has been prepping WWI drama The Guns Of August, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Charles Dance and Game Of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke, which was shopped at Cannes in May. His Downfall, a look at Hitler’s final days, was nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar in 2004 and sold to 145 international territories. At the time, it set box office records in Germany, the U.S., the UK, France, Spain, Scandinavia and Benelux. (Subtitled parodies of scenes from the film have also become viral and enduring memes.) Hirschbiegel also won the directing prize for Five Minutes Of Heaven in the World Cinema, Dramatic section of Sundance in 2009.
Georg Elser stars Christian Friedel (The White Ribbon) as the title character, with Katharina Schüttler (Generation War) as his companion and Burghart Klaußner (The White Ribbon) as one of the interrogators. The script is by Fred Breinersdorfer (Sophie Scholl), with Two Lives DOP Judith Kaufmann lensing. Producers are Oliver Schündler, Boris Ausserer (Lucky Bird) and Fred Breinersdorfer (Delphi). NFP will release in Germany on April 2, 2015, almost exactly 70 years after Elser’s death. Beta Cinema is handling world sales.