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Devil's Architect, The (Speer und er)

Devil's Architect, The
On the set of "Speer und er" (photo © Bavaria Film/WDR/St. Falke)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2004

A quarter of a century ago, director Heinrich Breloer had been planning to film the diaries of Hitler's architect Albert Speer - he had interviewed him in 1980 - but the project was abandoned after Speer's death in 1981.

Following the success of their mini-series The Manns (Die Manns - Ein Jahrhundertroman, 2001), which picked up, among others, an Emmy, nine Adolf Grimme Awards, the Bavarian Television Award and the Golden Camera, the director-writer duo of Breloer and Horst Koenigstein have now returned to the story of Speer's life for a TV three-parter, Speer und er, which is expected to be one of the TV events of 2005.

As on their previous projects, Breloer and Koenigstein are meticulous in the preparation for the mixture of staged scenes and documentary material. Work on the documentary part began in mid-2002 with almost 125 hours of interviews with 23 people, including two of Albert Speer's sons, a daughter and one of his nephews; private collections and archives were combed for 680 photos and a team of researchers gathered material from Germany, Austria, England, the USA and Russia about Speer's life.

In addition, award-winning production designer Goetz Weidner and his team have been busy reconstructing key locations for the staged sequences: for example, Hitler's study in the Neue Reichskanzlei in Berlin has been built at the WDR studios in Bocklemuend, while Sound Stage 12 at the Bavaria Film Studios is playing host to the prison wing in Spandau where "prisoner No. 5" - as Speer was known by his prison guards - was incarcerated for 20 years, the prison garden and to the courtroom in Nuremberg for the trial against the Nazi war criminals.

As the makers explain, the viewers will have no problems getting into the story since the narrative of the three episodes "were structured according to classic thematic focuses and genre rules." Thus, the first part is a ‘war movie’ showing Speer as Hitler's minister who goes from wielding immeasurable power to his downfall in a Nuremberg cell, a man who betrays his friend Hitler and then reinvents himself as a way of personal survival.

In the second part, the focus is on the war crimes trials in Nuremberg as a classic ‘courtroom drama’ with a fascinating mix of authentic newsreel footage and staged scenes. Accused of being one of the leading war criminals, Speer successfully distances himself from the Fuehrer's inner circle and presents himself as a kind of ‘gentleman Nazi’ who was apparently oblivious to the Nazis' campaign of genocide.

Meanwhile, the third episode - a ‘prison drama’ - concentrates on Speer's 20 years in prison in Spandau and a further metamorphosis by Speer into the writer of bestsellers where the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred once more.

The casting for the €12 million is no less impressive with Sebastian Koch as Speer, Tobias Moretti as Adolf Hitler, Dagmar Manzel as Gretel Speer, Axel Milberg as his close colleague and friend Rudolf Wolters, André Hennicke as Rudolf Hess, and Michael Gwisdek and Peter Ruehring as Generals Raeder and Doenitz.
Genre History, Biopic
Category Docu-Fiction
Year of Production 2004
Director Heinrich Breloer
Screenplay Heinrich Breloer, Horst Koenigstein
Cinematography Gernot Roll
Monika Bednarz-Rauschenbach, Olaf Strecker
Hans P. Stroer
Goetz Weidner
Cast Sebastian Koch, Tobias Moretti, Dagmar Manzel, Susanne Schaefer, André M. Hennicke, Peter Ruehring, Michael Gwisdek, August Zirner, Axel Milberg, Erika Maroszán
Producers Thilo Kleine, Michael Hild
Production Company Bavaria Film, in co-production with WDR, BR, NDR, Degeto Film, ORF/Vienna
Format 35 mm, color
Shooting Dates February - June 2004
Sound Technology Dolby SR
Festivals Banff 2006, Shanghai Television Festival 2006
Awards Best Historical Documentation Banff 2006, Golden Magnolia (Best Direction) Shanghai 2006
With backing from FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW

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