Friday, 17 August 2018

The Tunnel (2001 film)

Der Tunnel (The Tunnel) is a German film, released in 2001, and directed by Roland Suso Richter.

The movie is set in the 1960s, and is loosely based on the true story of a group of people in West Berlin who excavate a tunnel under the Berlin Wall in order to allow some relatives and friends to escape from the East.  We follow the often precarious tunneling operations, the hazardous border crossings made by members of the team and the efforts of the East German authorities to infiltrate and thwart the escape plan.

My view is that the film is not especially profound in its insights, and it is relatively sparing in its use of the philosophizing which often permeates films which deal with similar topics. However, it is well made, quite moving in places, with sober, grey and austere visuals. In addition, the acting is generally of a good standard.

Although I found myself rooting for the tunnelers and their friends, some of the tone of the film is ambiguous. Those who have escaped to West Berlin don't always find things as wonderful and straightforward there as might be imagined. 

This is a film which demands close attention, because there are necessarily plenty of nuances in the plot, especially in the parts where people are captured, interrogated and/or blackmailed by the East German secret police.

One feature of the film which stuck with me was the distrust and paranoia which appeared to be prevalent on both sides of the Wall. The tunnelers were suspicious of everybody, and took rigorous security measures in a bid to safeguard their plans.

As this picture progressed, I found myself becoming emotionally involved, and feeling for the participants. Their fear and anxiety were palpable, but so were their resolve and determination. I also found the blackmail by the East most unsettling, and recognized that the people affected by this were placed in an impossible position, and it is unfair for us to judge them too harshly.

Perhaps the most powerful scene in the film is the one where border guards shoot a young man, the boyfriend of one of the tunnelers, who is trying to escape to the West. Ordinary people caught in the crossfire, and used as pawns in the game. That scene I found quite unflinching, in depicting the pitiless nature of the struggle.

Heino Ferch delivers an excellent, authoritative and believable performance as the main character Harry. A resourceful, resilient and humane person who rarely seemed to lose heart or his nerve.

The ending to the movie is tense, emotional and adroitly captured and paced.

This is an entertaining and, in places, compelling film.

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