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13 Minutes (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 110 minutes.

OK for children.

If there is a film this year that I wish everyone could see, this would be near the top of the list. Alas, it undoubtedly will not be widely viewed because it’s a 2014 German film in German with subtitles and is about a hero of whom virtually nobody is aware. As if to emphasize this, there were only five people at my screening, and one was my assistant, and one left shortly after it started.

Apparently relatively well known in Germany, Georg Elser (Christian Friedel), attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in Munich on November 8, 1939 when he was making his annual speech at the Bürgenbräukeller to the Old Guard of the Nazi party. Elser is arrested 25 meters short of the Swiss border for possession of suspicious objects and handed over to the Gestapo.

He is interrogated and tortured by Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaussner), the head of the Criminal Police, and Heinrich Müller (Johann von Bülow), head of Gestapo. It was at this point, when the torture started, that the elderly lady sitting behind me bolted. I was considering it, also, because I did not want to watch some graphic torture scenes. Fortunately, I stuck around and the torture was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated and was not repeated.

While the film starts out with Georg planting his bomb, it tells his story in flashback. We learn a lot about him and his affair with the love of his life, Elsa (Katharina Schüttler), a married woman.

From the little amount of research I have been able to do, this film seems to be as factually accurate as a documentary. I had never heard of Georg Elser when I walked into the theater. But he should certainly stand with Claus von Stauffenberg as one of the most courageous opponents of Hitler. What he went through and how he endured is hard to believe, but it’s true.

The title, 13 minutes, refers to how close Elser came to success. Hitler had initially intended to cancel his speech at the Bürgenbräukeller, but changed his mind at the last minute. He started his speech early, and cut it from two hours to one hour. He left immediately after he finished the speech, and the bomb went off 13 minutes later, killing seven people.

There were a few scenes in the movie, especially right at the end, that I doubted. But when I checked them out, it turns out that they were 100% accurate.

This movie truly captures the awfulness it must have been to live under the Nazis, especially in the 1930s. But it also tells how an ordinary man of no particular background or training can perform heroically. I highly recommend it. In German.