Thursday, 10 June 2010


‘Valkyrie’ immediately takes me back to ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ (1854)from Richard Wagner’s opera The Ring of the Nibelung. The valkyrie are mythical females who are believed to guard the Norse abode of Odin, in his dwelling in Valhalla. They are believed to decide who will die in battle.

Valkyrie (2008) is also the name of a movie starring Tom Cruise, in which he acts as colonel Klaus Schenk von Stauffenberg who tried to eliminate Hitler on 20 June 1944. Along with him are a bunch of disaffected generals who believe Hitler’s intransigence with the Allied forces will lead ‘sacred’ Germany to ruin. So they plan to depose him – and his second-in-command Himmler. All that remains of the triumvirate is minister of propaganda, Goebbels, who, as we shall see, has a pivotal scene in the movie.

Axis forces are under siege in all theatres as we pick up the action in Valkyrie. The Red army has overrun Poland and the Germans have been defeated at Stalingrad. D-Day has happened with the Allied landing in Normandy barely 2 weeks ago on 6 June 1944, wresting France back from the Germans.

Things are going so bad that Italy’s Mussolini himself comes over for lunch with Hitler.

Themes on Nazi Germany are many and varied, a notable one being The Reader (2008) starring Kate Winslett. Tom Cruise is no stranger to the silver screen either. I first saw him in Top Gun (1986) as a fighter pilot who did some manoeuvres of his own with his leggy leading lady Kelly McGillis to the music of ‘Take My Breath Away’ by Berlin. I have always been fascinated by how actors reinvent themselves.

Valkyrie as the final moments of the film inform us in black letters as the credits scroll, is the 20th and final attempt to assassinate Hitler. We have often read of the Allies trying to eliminate Hitler but seldom does one come across accounts of attempts being made from within his own trusted commanders.

Hitler later committed suicide 8 months later when the Allies surrounded Berlin.

As we turned the pages in our M.Phil class in Pune, of Jean Anouilh’s drama Antigone (1943) based on the Nazi occupation of Paris, we could not have imagined that History could be that interesting. Or humiliating.

When I was a kid, afternoons at Carnac Bunder, at Dockyard road, Mumbai were spent voraciously devouring war comics carefully tucked away in the trunk of my cousin Derrick. I remember the corner too, the bookrack hung over the trunk, stashed away in an aisle in the roomy port trust house. I used to wonder how in all these comics the Allies always won. Lately I was to hear that history is always written by the victors.

Pix source: Hollywood-elsewhere(dot)com

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