Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Subtitled Der Film zum Buch vom Führer ("The film about the Führer's book"), the movie is a grotesque farce about the events when, in 1983, German Stern magazine began to publish, with great fanfare, the 60 volumes of the alleged diaries of Adolf Hitler – which two weeks later turned out to be entirely fake.
As if the story had not been bizarre enough in real life (commonly described one of the greatest failures of modern journalism overall), and although German film is not primarily noted for its sense of humor, the film is widely considered a hilarious tale, making fun not only of the events and characters who were involved in the hoax (and who are only thinly disguised in the movie), but also of the discomfort Germany has with its difficult past. Admittedly however, it is even more fun to viewers familiar with the country.
The film is co-written and directed by Helmut Dietl and, among his many respected comedies, frequently considered his best. Dietl researched the scandal for two years and has been quoted as having to leave out several real events from the movie because they were too outrageous.
Fritz Knobel (the movie's alter-ego of real-life forger Konrad Kujau) supports himself by faking and selling Nazi memorabilia, until he meets Dr. Lenz, who spends his time selling fakes of all kinds. When Knobel advertises his greatest fake of all time, Hitler's diaries, in the presence of sleazy journalist Hermann Willié, working for "HH Magazin" (real-world Stern magazine, located in Hamburg, which is abbreviated "HH" on German car license plates; "HH" is pronounced "haha" in German) where his career is stalling, the hoax kicks off big time. A starved magazine staff hungry for the big scoop, ego-driven historians, and old-time-Nazi descendants mourning the loss of their families' glory all contribute to the world-wide sensation after that history would have to be rewritten.
Possibly the most fun is to be had watching Knobel manufacture the diaries. Ridiculing the fact that (in the real course of events) even reputable historians confirmed the diaries as genuine, although they were not really brilliantly forged, Knobel toasts East German paper and minute books to make them look old. Knobel makes up the events he writes down according to what happens around him; after he meets his later lover Martha, she becomes his inspiration for Eva Braun. When he has stomach trouble, he writes, "Die ständigen Anstrengungen der letzten Wochen verursachen mir Blähungen im Darmbereich, und Eva sagt, ich habe Mundgeruch." ("The ongoing strain of the last week have caused me flatulence, and Eva says I have bad breath.") As he then comes under increasing stress, having to deliver the remaining volumes that he had already sold, he turns more and more into a mock image of Hitler himself.
Since the circulation of Stern had been in decline for years at the time since its glory days under editor Henri Nannen (and has been since then), the depiction of its "HH Magazin" movie counterpart and the people who are running it is also quite telling.
- Götz George – Hermann Willié (journalist; fictional equivalent of Gerd Heidemann)
- Uwe Ochsenknecht – Fritz Knobel (forger Konrad Kujau)
- Christiane Hörbiger – Freya von Hepp (Willié's noble wife)
- Veronica Ferres – Martha (Knobel's lover)
- Ulrich Mühe – Dr. Wieland (publisher)
- Harald Juhnke – Pit Kummer (Williés boss)
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