Film / Fatherland

A 1994 Made-for-TV Movie produced by HBO and based on a 1992 novel by Robert Harris.

In 1964 — within an alternate timeline where the Nazis won World War II — Hitler invites U.S. president Joseph P. Kennedy (JFK's father) to his 75th birthday celebrations, hoping to reach a détente that helps beating the Russian partisans.

Meanwhile a number of high ranking Nazi officers are found or getting killed, in order to remove the final obstacle to détente, the blackmailable existence of the last witnesses of the biggest secret of the war, the Final Solution.

The movie deals with Charlotte Maguire (Miranda Richardson), an American journalist; Franz Luther (John Woodvine), the last witness contacting Maguire; and Xavier March (Rutger Hauer), a good-natured police investigator digging deeper than Gestapo deems acceptable to solve the case.

This film contains examples of the following Tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie simplifies the book's plot heavily, messes with historical fact a good deal and makes the ending more unambiguous.
  • Alternate History
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Charlie delivers a whole series of them to make the enormity of the Holocaust sink in.
    Where are the Jews now? What was discussed at Wannsee? What happened at Auschwitz and... Belsen? What is Zyklon B?
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The German on some of the wallpapers, Hitler's signature on a framed photo, etc. Also, it's rather ironic that a lot of the furnishings seen in some of the appartments are very obviously from Communist era Czechoslovakia (which of course couldn't have existed in the movie's and book's verse).
    • A German soldier is shown with a bolt-action rifle instead of an Stg44 or maybe a G3 assault rifle. He's a ceremonial guard though, so it might be excused (such weapons handle better for drill movements).
    • The premise of Nazi victory is changed from the book, with a German victory during the 1944 Normandy invasion now cited as the sole turning point. Cue a Face Palm from World War II buffs, who are usually a bit more aware of just how hopeless Germany's military situation was by the summer of 1944, successful D-Day landing or no.
    • Even the geographic dimensions of the Nazi empire are peculiar, based on the map shown in the beginning. Basically all of continental Europe west of the Ukraine has been subsumed into an expanded German empire, when much of this was never the Nazis' intentions. Historians discovered that the Nazis did in fact desire to incorporate nations such as Norway and the Netherlands because of the racist nordic ideology inherent in Nazism, but one can only speculate whether countries such as Spain, Italy, France, or Greece wouldn't ultimately have been annexed into the Third Reich if they already controlled everything else (which they don't in this timeline). During the war the focus of Nazist expansionism was directed towards Eastern Europe because they believed the Slavs to be "an inferior race", and consequently thought it needed to be conquered, depopulated, and resettled with Germans, who were supposedly in need of "living space". The book follows these events correctly.
    • The sole fact that Welthauptsstadt Germania is shown littered with buildings such as the Arc of Triumph or the Grosse Halle. While Speer certainly drew up plans for those structures and Hitler supplied constant pressure to have them built, geological and physical feasibility studies (such as this Schwerbelastungskörper) quickly proved that Berlin's soil was too marshy to carry the weight of such monstrous structures, and - had they ever been built - they would have most likely just sunken in and collapsed, rendering the notion that these buildings would ever have stood for any number of years very unrealistic at best.
  • Blackmail
    Xavier: I was thinking of asking internal affairs...
  • California Doubling - Besides the world capital Germania shots being completely artificial, the whole movie was shot in Prague and its environs. The shown Reichssicherheitshauptamt building was e.g. actually the site of the Czechoslovak parliament and later Radio Free Europe and the Adolf Hitler statue was placed in front of the Rudolfinum.
  • Crapsack World
  • Disconnected by Death - Invoked. An already wounded March cycles to a phone booth to call Pili before his certain death to tell him that it wasn't his fault.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending - March dies and Charlie is arrested by the Gestapo, but Kennedy got the proof of the Holocaust and cancelled his alliance with Hitler, whose regime later collapsed.
    • As opposed to the novel, where Xavier manages to find the torn-down remnants of Auschwitz right before being killed by the Gestapo and Charlie only manages to board a plane back to the US with the documents before the end.
  • Film of the Book
  • Forensic Drama
  • From a Certain Point of View - Kind of. Rather the creepiest euphemism in movie history.
    Anna von Hagen: Will you finally do something about your Jews as we did with ours?
    Charlie: What did you do?
    Anna von Hagen: We put them into cattle cars and shipped them east. Always east!
    Charlie: To the Ukraine, you mean, to the resettlement camps.
    Anna von Hagen: Yeah, to resettle them... in the air!
    Charlie: Excuse me?
  • Government Conspiracy - In-universe, the biggest one in history.
  • He Knows Too Much - The Movie
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.
    Xavier: I've been a loyal son of my fatherland. I served murderers all my life.
  • Heroic R.R.O.D. - The Eastern Front veterans in the house of the blind.
  • Hollywood Costuming - The film: The 1960s Nazi uniforms are all obviously very out-of-place stock WW2 film props, which implies in-universe that the uniforms didn't change in the slightest for twenty years.
    • Also, for some reason, every single outside shot seems to feature at least two separate groups of uniformed soldiers/paramilitaries/policemen/Hitler Youths walking by in the background, giving off the (very cartoonish) impression that in a 1960s Third Reich, one third of all Germans would only go outside in some kind of uniform.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender! - Anna von Hagen when displaying her bitterness about failing in her acting career.
  • In Spite of a Nail - As mentioned above, the Beatles still form despite twenty years of Alternate History.
    • In the film, anyway- the novel just mentions an unnamed British band has become popular.
    (March and Charlie arguing about which side committed more war crimes during the war)
    Xavier: You dropped it on Japan twice.
  • Intrepid Reporter - Charlie
  • Joggers Find Death
  • La Résistance: This is what becomes of the Soviet Red Army, continuously waging a guerrilla war well into the 60s, still led by the 85 year-old Joseph Stalin. They are secretly supported by the United States.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis - In-universe with the last surviving attendent of Wannsee, Franz Luther.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident - The death of SS cadet Jost jr.
    Jäger: He was training at the gym, he fell, broke his neck.
    Xavi: No witnesses!?
    Jäger: No witnesses. The instructor said, he loved gymnastics.
    Xavi: I want an autopsy!
  • Narrator All Along - He's only heard at the beginning and at the end, but it's still notable to say that the narrator is Pili, the son of Xavier March.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed : Though all Nazis named in the film indeed existed, the character of Martin Luther got the given name Franz in the movie to avoid connotations to another Martin Luther, a major religious reformer.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Joseph P. Kennedy is President.
  • Police Procedural
  • Punch Clock Villain - Played completely straight with the ordinary police officers.
  • Putting on the Reich - The city of Welthauptstadt Germania, formerly known as Berlin. Nuff' said.
  • Released to Elsewhere: The Nazis covered up the Holocaust by claiming to have resettled the Jews in Ukraine. Possibly the creepiest admission of this trope occurs when an American journalist visits an extremely anti-Semitic Nazi woman who proudly reveals that her late lover Reinhard Heydrich had "resettled" them in the air (ash, you see).
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!
  • Secret Police - The Gestapo is anywhere out there to fetch you.
  • Those Wacky Nazis
  • White-Dwarf Starlet - Anna von Hagen
  • You Killed My Father - Rather like I didn't know what I was doing when I phoned the Gestapo.