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German war film challenges taboo - Red Baron

He is a handsome, blond, young pilot - and he's not your typical baddie.

In the new film The Red Baron, which had its premiere in Berlin on Monday night, Germany's legendary flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen, is portrayed as an emotional, sensitive man.

A replica of the Fokker triplane from World War I was planted outside the CineStar cinema in Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, as crowds gathered for the traditional red-carpet welcome.

Funnily enough, although the film has been billed as a taboo-breaker, given the fact that von Richthofen is depicted as a heroic figure, many young Germans have hardly heard of him.

"Who is the Red Baron?" one woman asked me.

But, like it or not, the film is bound to provoke another round of soul-searching about Germany's wartime past.

Dashing airmen

Manfred von Richthofen, who shot down 80 British, Canadian and Australian pilots during World War I, is played by the dashing German actor, Matthias Schweighoefer.

The film shows how 24-year-old Von Richthofen and his fellow airmen treat the war like a sport, hunting down the enemy in lively air-battle scenes.

"It was fun," they say, after engaging in a dangerous dogfight.

The pilots, who come from an upper-class background, behave like spoilt children.

They take their fur coats into the cockpits of the fighters.

But as the war progresses, and the casualties mount, Von Richthofen's initial idealism fades.

The young pilot, known as "the Red Baron", who painted his plane red, falls in love with a nurse, played by the British actress Lena Headey.

Personal struggle

Von Richthofen gives her the credit for opening his eyes to the cruelty of war and after other pilots die in action, the Red Baron becomes disillusioned.

In the film, he is seen to be undergoing an immense personal struggle.

On the one hand, Von Richthofen is portrayed as a German war hero, who led Jagdgeschwader I, a German squadron of fighter planes in his bright red Fokker triplane. But on the other hand, Von Richthofen falls in love and gradually realises that the war cannot be won.

The film, with its sentimental touch, makes you aware of Von Richthofen's humanity.

The young officer falls to pieces when his friends die, he buys a harmonica for a friend, and he feels embarrassed because he cannot dance well.

Hero of his time

For Germans, the film is controversial.

"You have a completely different perspective here," said the actor Matthias Schweighoefer, who plays the leading role, despite the fact that he used to be afraid of flying.

"But I can understand that one has problems with a war hero."

The 27-year-old actor said Von Richthofen was "a hero of his time… he was a brave man."

Schweighoefer said he gave a private screening to the Hollywood star Tom Cruise, who was in Berlin last year filming Valkyrie, a historical drama about the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

"We watched it together, and afterwards Tom jumped up and said, 'It's great that you made a film like this in Germany'," Schweighoefer said.


The fact that German soldiers are depicted as heroes is contentious.

Difficult territory

Normally German films dwell on the extremism of the Nazi regime, focusing on the perpetrators of atrocities and the victims of the Holocaust.

It is clear the makers of The Red Baron knew that they were venturing into tricky ground.

But they claim it is an explicit anti-war film.

The writer and director of The Red Baron, Nikolai Muellerschoen, said: "Historically Germans have been reluctant and there are strong voices in Germany still saying we're not allowed to do this: a film about a German war hero.

"But the film makes a very clear statement against war. In it Richthofen says that he understands everyone has turned this world into a slaughterhouse and the war cannot be won.

"He says he's not going to be the immortal god that Berlin wants him to be; he knew millions were lured into the trenches with such propaganda," he said.

The film, which cost 18m euros (£14m; $28m) to produce, also stars the British actor Joseph Fiennes as Capt Roy Brown, a Canadian pilot whose plane is shot down by Von Richthofen in their first aerial encounter.

So who was the Red Baron?

The Blue Max

Manfred von Richthofen was born in Silesia in 1892 into a rich Prussian aristocratic family.

He went to an army cadet school and after World War I broke out, he joined the Flying Service in 1915.

In 1917, Von Richthofen was awarded the highest military honour in Germany at that time, the Blue Max.

Later, he became the commander of the Jagdgeschwader I (wing) formations, which became known as the Flying Circus, because the fighter planes were brightly decorated aircraft.

Von Richthofen was 25 years old when he was killed in combat in the Somme Valley in April 1918, shortly before his 26th birthday.

The exact circumstances of his death remain unclear.

The Red Baron received a lukewarm reception at the Berlin premiere.

The film opens in German cinemas on 10 April and it will be interesting to see whether it rekindles interest in the legendary German flying ace.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7324877.stm


Click to view image: '168614-_44530533_baron226b.jpg'

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Added: Apr-1-2008 
By: Dat1111
In:
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Tags: Germany, Red Baron, World war 1, WW1, war hero, hero, militarism, military, Empire, glory, honor, sacrifice, courage, heroism, Pilot, luftwaffe, airforce
Views: 14233 | Comments: 23 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 1 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • He was a real fokker of a pilot.

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (3) | Report

  • Interloper: "Cool article. The Red Barron is a true legend of WW1. Interesting how it mentions the soul-searching of germany's wartime past, but what's the nazi regime got to do with it? Fighter pilots (aces) of that era were in a class of their own. And these guys were the coolest of the cool."
    UH the old school nazis grew up during this time and were involved.. thats why. Its connected

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (2) | Report

  • Dat1111: "
    Interloper: "Cool article. The Red Barron is a true legend of WW1. Interesting how it mentions the soul-searching of germany's wartime past, but what's the nazi regime got to do with it? Fighter pilots (aces) of that era were in a class of their own. And these guys were the coolest of the cool."
    UH the old school nazis grew up during this time and were involved.. thats why. Its connected"
    WW2 is a different time and a different war. WW1 is known as 'The Great War' More..

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (2) | Report

  • The Red Baron was always admired in the USA. Among other icons, he as a fixture on Peanuts.

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Cool article. The Red Barron is a true legend of WW1. Interesting how it mentions the soul-searching of germany's wartime past, but what's the nazi regime got to do with it? Fighter pilots (aces) of that era were in a class of their own. And these guys were the coolest of the cool.

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Interloper: "
    Dat1111: "
    Interloper: "Cool article. The Red Barron is a true legend of WW1. Interesting how it mentions the soul-searching of germany's wartime past, but what's the nazi regime got to do with it? Fighter pilots (aces) of that era were in a class of their own. And these guys were the coolest of the cool."
    UH the old school nazis grew up during this time and were involved.. thats why. Its connected"
    WW2 is a different time and a different war. WW1 is known as 'The Great War'. "
    N More..

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (1) | Report

  • it was a different time from the Germany after the Nazi's took control -the Germans of that time modelled themselves on British gentleman.The wore English tweed and wore horseriding jonphurs.They respected their adversory and vice versa -it was a period that was very different from WW2.
    Baron von respected the English and wrote in his diary that he might kill an Englishman in a day but never more than one.(he would go back to the airfield)

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Can't wait to see it. The Germans know how to make movies. Last time I saw the movie "downfall" or "der untergang". You will be surprised to know that I saw it at a cinema in Israel. Das boot is also a classic, which i have watched about 10 times.

    and to ricsi,

    it sounds you are trying to justify the holocaust....its not surprising, many of your countrymen sent us Jews in to the fire without thinking twice. Maybe you are a Nazi yourself deep down inside.

    Shalom, Pea More..

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (1) | Report

  • I think he got shot down by a SAM

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • After Richtofen was shot down, the British recovered his body from the wreckage, did a post mortem, then buried him with full military honors.

    Posted Apr-3-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • They were killing themselves off for scarce career opportunities.

    Posted Apr-5-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • thunderbear: "I think he got shot down by a SAM "
    Well, that's one farfetched theory. Credit is also claimed by Roy Brown of the RAF and by a Sergeant C. B. Popkin of an Australian anti-aircraft crew. There's other claims too but I don't see a Sam anywhere.

    Posted Apr-7-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • Comment of user 'Thor66' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • I remember I even posted the trailer of this movie here on Liveleak.
    I watched the full film a couple of weeks ago and wasnt too impressed. Ordinary "a-bit-of-all" popcorn production.

    Posted Oct-2-2008 By 

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  • Yep. Given the budget, Red Baron could and should have been a lot better. Nice cgi though, but too few of it.

    Posted Oct-5-2008 By 

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  • They only became "nazis" because of the humiliation of the Versailles treaty and lets not forget the Balfour declaration which appeased the jews,who then manipulated the US into the war.

    Posted Apr-2-2008 By 

    (-2) | Report

  • Some homo german guy directed this money I bet you... My grandfather was a pilot in the german air force on the western front in World War 1. He was well decorated too.

    Posted Jan-10-2009 By 

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  • Richthofen deserves a production worthy of previous German productions like Das boot and Stalingrad.

    Posted Jan-10-2009 By 

    (0) | Report

    • Stalingrad? What is that a movie that's just come out? Must not have made American theaters yet.

      Posted May-31-2009 By 

      (0) | Report

    • It's an old movie from -93 with Thomas kretschmann.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108211/



      Also dont know if you seen it, but if you haven't you should ;)

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098437/

      Posted May-31-2009 By 

      (0) | Report

  • I've never heard of Richthoven as "a baddie". To the armies fighting the Kaiser, he was certainly the enemy, but to my knowlege nobody ever considered him to be an asshole like his fellow ace Herman Goering. I don't see why this movie should be controversial.

    Unless, of course, all this business about "breaking taboos" and "showing the human side" actually means they will protray him as some sorts of homo.

    Brokeback Triplane? Lord, I hope not.

    Posted May-31-2009 By 

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  • I wonder if they portray Richthoven being shot down by the famous Canadian pilot, Snoopy.

    Sorry. I couldn't resist.

    Posted May-31-2009 By 

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