"ALONE IN BERLIN" DIRECTORIAL REVIEWS


"Based on a true story, the book’s intriguing, late discovery created a level of interest and excitement that this big screen adaptation by Swiss actor/director Vincent Perez fails to match. Slow-paced to the point of sluggish, it stars Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson as Otto and Anna Quangel, the reserved, unhappy couple... Gleeson and Thompson are fine actors but here they are constrained by a script that offers them little more than one-dimensional characters whose actions feel perfunctory."   ...Anne Joseph, The Jewish Chronicle

"Dignified to the point of absurdity, this fact-based dud never gets off the ground, thanks to director Vincent Perez’s failure to create — let alone maintain — any level of suspense. Under the right circumstances, I’ll gladly watch two characters spend half a movie walking in silence. But this isn’t Vertigo."  ...Scott Marks, San Diego Reader

"Handsomely photographed and unimaginatively directed by Vincent Perez, this stodgy story of how a long-married German couple became peas beneath the Nazi mattress has a comforting familiarity. The clean Berlin streets and dustily lighted apartments; the classical framing and detailed costuming; the German-accented English — there’s nothing here to ruffle or rouse. Instead, like many such projects, the movie has a stilted worthiness that constricts emotion."  ...Jeannette Catsoulis, NY Times

"You never quite feel a rush of immediacy in Perez’s staid, suspense-free retelling, which, like so many half-hearted cinematic re-creations of sweeping historical events, has both the clarity and the mustiness of hindsight."  ...Justin Chang, LA Times

"Based on the international bestseller by Hans Fallada, the original content for the film was strong. But somewhere down the line it all became lost and laboured. Arguably the fault is Perez’s – whose transparently fearful direction shows his inability to dig any deeper than the surface layers of a greatly sensitive subject. Clearly, his confidence and maturity as a director is wanting, and here, he’s definitely bitten off more than he can chew."  ...Sophia Watson, Filmink.com

"Perez's Berlin is too art-house-handsome, too committed to the look and feel of conventionally well-appointed historical drama. Just a scintilla of the Quangels' audacity would have gone a long way."   ...Scott Tobias, NPR

"Vincent Perez’s adaptation is completely lacking in moral urgency, emotion, or suspense. Alone in Berlin attempts a tone of tragic understatement that registers instead as flat, plodding, and underfelt... Perez’s direction results in a tone of pinched solemnity that renders the Quangels’ heroism pallid and small. There’s little sense that Perez understands his characters, from their relationship to their moral choices... Even as the police close in on the Quangels and the noose tightens, Alone in Berlin still can’t manage to develop any excitement as it slogs its way to the finish line with the same drearily somber tone it has affected throughout. Resistance has rarely seemed so dull."   ...Keith Watson, Slant magazine

"...Vincent Perez has taken the indefensible decision to make it in English with the actors speaking in cod-German accents, exactly the same daftness that afflicted Suite Francaise. Seeing it in Berlin itself, complete with German subtitles, seemed especially grotesque. Challenged at the subsequent press conference, Perez replied: "As a European, I really wanted to bring this film up to an international level". He might as well have said he fancied a Euro-pudding... The direction is predictable and even boring, missing all the fearsome precision of Fallada about the exact sequence of events - and to make this terrifying story merely dull is an unforgivable waste."   ...David Sexton, Evening Standard

"Sadly, the film just doesn’t come together fully as a complete package. Perez attempts to orchestrate Spielbergian moments as the net tightens on the ill-fated husband and wife, but never quite gets there. It lacks the tension that the material commands, and the ending simply sees the film fizzle out to a quiet whimper when it should have created an intense, deafening bang. While not a disaster, Alone In Berlin could have so much better; a film that is only just saved by its two lead actors in Thompson and Gleeson."   ...Paul Heath, The Hollywood News

"Securing Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson for the lead roles has got to count as a pretty major head-start for this English-language adaptation of this book. Being directed by Swiss actor Vincent Perez, possibly not so much. The film’s first unveiling at last year's Berlin Film Festival fell unmistakably flat (the lone boo was the loudest I’ve ever heard), not through any overt fault of its stars. It has a silly script, and gauche direction coming out of its ears – what’s left is a coarse, will-this-do quality... Imagining what a Spielberg or De Palma might have done with the alleged suspense scenes – all mounting of stairways hiding under hat-brims, but not a hint of technical flair or savvy editing – gives the director’s game away even more."   ...Tim Robey, The Telegraph

"Though set amidst a familiar, prosperous stomping ground in cinema – Vincent Perez’s third feature film Alone in Berlin is somewhat unique in that it delves into the horrors of the Second World War from a German perspective, as opposed to that of the English and US soldiers, or the Jewish victims. Regrettably, however, any sense of originality is carelessly deviated away from; for what transpires is a generic, tedious offering that simply doesn’t do justice to Hans Fallada’s bestselling novel."    ...Stefan Pape, HeyUGuys

"This should've been so much better. The story is so good, but the filmmaking is just so bad, and it deserved better. Alone in Berlin is a film directed by Vincent Perez telling the story of Otto Quangel, a German living in Berlin during WWII that decided to write post cards with 'free press' notes opposing Hitler and his regime... Even the final shot of the film is so amateur and absurd I couldn't believe it. That's it? Put up a repetitive shot of cards flying through the air and invert the colors?"   ...Alex Billington, Firstshowing.net

"As valiant and important as the film is, Alone in Berlin is not perfect. The director is the French actor Vincent Perez, whose commitment to the material is obvious, but whose lack of experience shows badly...  A more confident director might have mined more tension out of the story. The script is slow, the movement even slower." ...Rex Reed, The Observer

"The central couple are heroic but actor-turned-director Vincent Perez transforms their story into a plodding drama. The stars invest the characters with a quiet dignity but a melodramatic final scene seems out of place in this otherwise low-key film."   ...Allan Hunter, Daily Express

"Aside from the odd moment of vicious excess, Alone in Berlin is a painfully restrained, humdrum tale of anti-Nazi resistance, let down by poor directorial choices... Director Vincent Perez secured Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson for the lead roles, a coup negated by having them speak in thick German accents. The combination of this and the grinding, maladroit script leaves the talented leads often chewing through dialogic stodge."   ...Dougie Gerrard, Cityam.com

"Perez marshals all this with competence, but never anything approaching style. The look, by cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, is chilly and chocolate box elegiac, the sounds, by composer Alexandre Desplat, equally innocuous, all melancholy strings and pretty piano lines. And this is Alone In Berlin’s biggest stumbling block. In a film about revolution (albeit on a small scale) in the most tumultuous time and place in history, it can’t muster anything approaching fire and intensity."  ...Ian Freer, Empire magazine

"Unfortunately, the relatively sedate nature of the couple's clandestine operations is not all that cinematic, and stoic, straight-bat scripting and direction can make the film seem more dreary than it really should be."  ...Leigh Paatsch, Herald Sun

"Alone In Berlin was co-written and directed by Vincent Perez, a Swiss actor (best known in the U.S. as the star of The Crow: City Of Angels) who evidently equates 'serious' with 'drab.' In theory, the relationship between Otto and Anna should be the heart of the movie, but Perez has Gleeson and Thompson perform in opposing registers. There’s little sense of a shared worldview, or even of a shared loss, until the final minutes, by which time it’s too late."  ...Mike D'Angelo, A.V. Club

"Postcards from the edge — of grief, of rationality, and in just a few cases, of the German capital itself — are delivered by the dozen in Alone in Berlin, Vincent Perez’s diverting but terminally fusty story of a middle-aged couple waging an anonymous propaganda war against Nazism in the early 1940s. Perhaps it’s apt, then, that Perez’s third feature fashions something of a postcard itself from the iniquities of the Holocaust... Distributors may find a receptive older audience for a downbeat tale that, while affecting, offers but a historical tourist’s perspective on events."  ...Guy Lodge, Variety

"It’s a terrific resistance story, based on a 1947 novel by Hans Fallada – and it should make for a tense, nail-biting thriller. Yet despite Thompson and Gleeson’s best efforts, Alone in Berlin somehow falls short. Its script often feels laboured and over-obvious, and director Vincent Perez (best known as an actor) fails to create the necessary tension in too many promising scenes."  ...David Gritten, Saga.co.uk

"Director Vincent Perez (best known as an actor in millennial schlock like Queen of the Damned and The Crow: City of Angels) has certainly paid attention to production design, costuming and recreating the period, but the drama itself feels a little to airless, a little too one-paced, more static stage play than the crackling wartime thriller it had the potential to be."   ...James Croot, Stuff.co.nz

"For those who have not read Hans Fallada’s terrifying novel Alone in Berlin, Vincent Perez’s film version is probably a mildly absorbing drama about two people bucking the odds. For those who have read it, the film is hugely disappointing."   ...Ray Bennett, The Cliff Edge

"Sadly, Vincent Pérez’s film captures little of the novel. Adaptations are meant to go their own way, but this one doesn’t really try. Instead, it parses down a complex, atmospheric story, stripping away details that bring the book, and the situation faced by Otto and Anna Quangel to life... As an indictment of the Nazi regime and the celebration of small defiance it wants to be, Alone in Berlin is a complete washout. Aiming high is fine, but Pérez’s film seems to think it can reach great heights simply because the source material does. It doesn’t work that way, nor does this work."   ...Stephen Mayne, Under the Radar

"There's little suspense though; the procedural is drab. More interesting is the city's air of suspicion and distrust – support for the Nazis is done conspicuously. Alone in Berlin is a modest, hard-faced film, offering a nervous study of humanity and civil disobedience in a societal-bullying era. Its intentions are commendable and its photography is fine-looking, but the drama is as low-key as the couple's small, symbolic insurgence."   ...Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

"Due to its flat presentation, the aesthetically-interesting world of Nazi Berlin failed to materialize, with costumes, banners and Nazi memorabilia failing to promote any kind of emotional response. This visually uninteresting film mixed with a tension-less narrative structure fails to bring about the potentially powerful story-telling Alone in Berlin could have achieved."  ...Euan Brook, Nouse

"Director Vincent Perez has turned in a handsome but undercharged and dramatically flat version of these events. It hits all the right emotional beats exactly on cue, almost to the point of tedium. It takes no risks with the visuals, capturing the action in the most basic and safe way imaginable. In all, this feels like a missed opportunity."  ...David Jenkins, Little White Lies

"Brühl, like the rest of this picture, is not immune to Perez’s total lack of control as a filmmaker. There’s a ridiculous beating at the hands of a Nazi that is so over-the-top as to be funny. Perez may have had good intentions in retelling this story, but those reasons don’t matter if he can’t offer a unique vision for a story, for a people, and for a city that matters."    ...Zade Constantine, The Film Stage

"The real problem is the funereal tone of the film. There’s not a lot of light and shade to the characters or their predicament. Gleeson and Thompson are both very fine actors, but they are hemmed in by the monotone direction... Alone In Berlin was directed by French actor Vincent Perez. He doesn’t put much of a personal stamp on the film visually, and does little in the way of presenting a compelling story. English language remakes seldom stand up well against their original source, and unfortunately Alone In Berlin is no exception."  ...Richard Leathem, lowdownunder.com

"To be fair, Perez seems more interested in presenting the characters truthfully rather than embellishing for entertainment's sake. Unfortunately, this makes for a dullish, rather predictable film which feels longer than its running time. To the good, the chemistry between Gleeson and Thompson is excellent, and the production handsomely crafted. The freedom of speech theme has relevance today, and the quiet bravery of this normal couple makes for worthy subject matter. It's just a pity Perez's understated approach doesn't do their story justice."   ...Francesca Rudkin, New Zealand Herald

"Alone in Berlin is appropriately dour, but never poetic and always straightforward. It’s like someone adapted the British wartime philosophy of keeping a stiff upper lip and adapted that for Nazi run Germany. Given the actions of the Quangels and their obviously emotional motivations, that strikes as an oddly off-putting choice. These curiously polished choices make one wish Perez’s film turned out better than it ultimately did."  ...Andrew Parker, The Gate

"Directed by the actor Vincent Perez—who is also credited as a writer along with Achim Von Borries—Alone in Berlin suffers from far greater potholes, starting with a fundamental question which is never satisfactorily answered: Who were the Quangles before they lost their son? Were they essentially apolitical figures who became resistance fighters (of sorts) thanks to personal loss, or were they always silent Nazi-haters who kept up the pretense of Nazi allegiance as a survival tactic, and only risked exposure when they had nothing else to lose?"   ...Simi Horwitz, Film Journal International

"It’s true that not all good stories make for good films; what Vincent Perez’s plodding, predictable, utterly perfunctory WWII drama fails to recognize is that it doesn’t even have a particularly good story on its hands. As noble as the source material seems, Alone in Berlin's tale of Nazi-oriented dissent in Berlin is preaching to the converted, shedding practically no light on the war – yes, we know that Nazis were bad and we know that not all Germans were Nazis – to wallow in a plot that’s about as thrilling as its premise suggests: fighting the war with postcards. Forgettable."  ...Eddie Falvey, One Room with a View

"The understandable but clumsily-executed choice to use international stars, saddling their English accents with strong German accents and making the rest of the actors, in other words German actors, speak English, simply adds grist to the critics’ mill. Some will merely deplore the artistic triteness of the film, the naivety of its clichés and the schmaltz of the final scene. The more brutal will suggest that like when he was an actor, and especially when it comes to tackling such a delicate subject in the very place it happened, Berlin, Perez would have been wise to take some advice from the skillful Cyrano."   ...Benedicte Prot, Cineuropa

"What prevents Alone In Berlin becoming an unappetising serving of Europudding are the performances of the two leads (despite their slightly dodgy accents). Gleeson in particular is superb as the gruff, plain-speaking rebel who nevertheless is smart enough to know their small-scale act of resistance is ultimately doomed to fail. It’s just a shame that Perez’s cinematic ambitions prove to be as modest as the Quangels’ fictional campaign."   ...John Ferguson, Stack

"Based on a novel by Hans Fallada, the lead writing credits for the piece are shared between Achim von Borries and the director Vincent Perez – in a rare directorial outing for the Swiss actor. The script exudes a melancholic gloom and at times expresses beautifully both the grief and love shared by this older couple. But some of the dialogue needs more work and we don’t see enough of Thompson in the early part of the film where her motivations should be being developed. This rather comes down to a lack of focus by the director."  ...Critic Robert Mann

"Isn’t it time that actors of a particular origin who are playing characters of a different origin and speaking English – which is not the language of those characters – should speak English without an accent that represents the characters’ origin? This annoying custom crops up anew in the wretched film version by Vincent Perez – the Swiss-born French movie star’s third directorial effort – of Alone in Berlin, based on the novel by Hans Fallada. The film’s functional style displays no talent and less inspiration... Sloppy, even amateurish movies like this are not in short supply, but it’s rare for those unprofessional qualities to intersect with such a high-quality source and story... The director appears to be striving for dramatic and emotional subtlety, but as he lacks the cinematic ability to convey this with the requisite means, the film veers from the ostensibly subtle into the patently obvious."  ...Uri Klein, Haaertz.com

"Alone In Berlin is a small, even domestic, drama set against the wider horrors of the Third Reich, showing how the small acts by two good, honest people made, in their own way, a small difference. The adaptation is not entirely successful, sacrificing too much of the anger and potency of the book, and its pacing is problematic."   ...Joseph Walsh, Film3Sixty Magazine

"Despite a terrific triumvirate of performances from Gleeson, Thompson, and Brühl, and soft lensing from cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, Alone in Berlin is hampered by stodgy pacing, budgetary constraints, and drab interiors."   ...Tara Brady, The Irish Times

"It certainly doesn't help that sets, characters and streets are so deliberately drab, sucking the life right off the screen. Perez has an eye for character detail, and he conveys the narrative with a sense of the momentousness of the time and place. But he struggles to bring us in, to make us feel the crushing pressures or the sense of life in the balance. In other words, it's a film to admire, but it never sweeps us up in its drama."  ...Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall