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Film / De Nuremberg à Nuremberg

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De Nuremberg à Nuremberg (From Nuremberg to Nuremberg) is a 1989 French documentary in two parts directed by Frédéric Rossif (who made To Die in Madrid in the same vein before) and narrated by journalist Philippe Meyer, with a soundtrack by Vangelis. It is mostly made of archive footage, all in black and white. It was initially featured in the French TV documentary show Les dossiers de l'écran.

It broadly chronicles the history of Nazi Germany from its rise to its fall, following the course of World War II. Some parts focus on the War in Asia and the Pacific, but the documentary's heart is mostly about the way Adolf Hitler reshaped Germany, the war he waged in Europe and eventually lost, the devastation and atrocities that came with it (chiefly among them The Holocaust) and its immediate aftermath when the defeated regime's surviving leaders faced justice.

The film opens with imposing national-socialist party rallies and agressive speeches by some the party's heads in Nuremberg in 1934 and ends with the trials that took place in the ruins of the same city in 1945-1946 (hence the title).

Two versions of the film exist, a 180 minutes-long and a 238 minutes-long. The 180 minutes one cut out a number of interviews, among other things.

Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Atrocity Montage: The documentary contains sequences depicting Axis atrocities such as massacres of cities or camps sourced from World War II-era newsreels and footage. It does so similarly to Night and Fog in this regard, showing desolate scenes of Nazi concentration camps while narrating about the lives of inmates held in these camps.
  • Blatant Lies: Some of Hitler's speeches concerning his intentions to "respect the neutrality" of some of Germany's neighbor countries and the "good relations with Poland" are featured. No, really. Cue footage of said countries being invaded.
  • Book Ends:
    • The film starts with national-socialist rallies in the city of Nuremberg in 1934 and ends with the trials in the same city in ruins just over a decade later (hence the title).
    • The infamous Nuremberg Laws are also evoked at the beginning. Fast forward to the end, with footage and pictures showing the results of The Holocaust.
  • Dated History: The documentary makes ample use of excerpts from the conversations Hermann Rauschning claimed to have had with Hitler, which he wrote down in his book Conversations with Hitler (Hitler Speaks in the UK). Modern historians specializing in nazism have since questioned the authenticity of said conversations, and the most serious among them such as Ian Kershaw tend to simply disregard them.
  • Demoted to Extra: Imperial Japan never had a big role to play in the European-North African theatre of World War II so the documentary's parts focusing on its war in the Pacific are scarce but still there, mainly to underline the global status of the war (they end with the obligatory Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and surrender of Japan).
  • Drone of Dread: The Vangelis soundtrack incorporates quite a few droning moments that add a sense of dread to the war and Holocaust sequences.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: The soundtrack includes some of the Red Army Choirs' greatest patriotic hits, which aimed at galvanizing the spirit of resistance of the Soviet people against German invaders.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure:
    • Narrator Philippe Meyer states that at one point "Adolf Hitler left the Olympic Stadium [during the 1936 Olympic Games] so he wouldn't have to shake the hand of Jesse Owens, a black man, after the latter's victory at the 100 metres." In reality, Hitler had a very tight schedule that day and had to leave the stadium, and he did not greet nor shake the hand of any athlete publicly, but he did greet and shake the hand of Owens for his victory personally. He did so off-camera at the stadium before leaving.
    • Then he cites the fact that the German army reached Yasnaya Polyana, "the estate of Count Aleksey Tolstoy, author of War and Peace" when invading USSR. It was Leo Tolstoy (a distant relative of Aleksey) who wrote War and Peace, and Yasnaya Polyana belonged to him. Not only that, he also says that the distance between Moscow and Yasnaya Polyana is 22 kilometers. It is 200 kilometers actually.
  • Newsreel: The vast majority of the videos of the time come from newsreels, especially the German ones, which usually come from the Wochenschau (though stripped of their original sound and music).
  • The Place: The film starts in Nuremberg with the Nazi parades from Triumph of the Will and spends a good chunk of its end in the same city for the 1945-1946 Trials, hence the title.
  • The Quisling: The Trope Namer (Vidkun Quisling, collaborationist leader of Norway) is mentioned, as well as some infamous examples like Philippe Pétain.
  • La Résistance: At various stages, photos of famous resistants (either political/intellectual opponents or fighters) who died are shown, with the narrator reciting a quote from them.
  • Sad Battle Music:
    • When the battle of France is lost by the latter in 1940, there's sad music playing.
    • Also when the Soviet Union regroups under Stalin's calls to resist during Operation Barbarossa after the crushing defeats sustained by the Red Army all along the summer of 1941.
    • The major German defeats and the columns of war prisoners heading for camps are also accompanied by sad music.
  • Standard Snippet:
    • The part about the 1941-1944 siege of Leningrad is aptly set to the "Invasion" section from Dmitri Shostakovich's famous Symphony #7, also called "Leningrad Symphony", for it was composed in the city at the time and dedicated to the city's heroic resistance.
    • Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries is used in the part about the German paratrooper raid that rescued Benito Mussolini from Allied custody at the Hotel Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso massif in Italy on September 12, 1943.
  • Stock Footage: Plenty of it was used, from Leni Riefenstahl's 1930s propaganda films (Triumph of the Will most prominently at the beginning) to German and Allied newsreels, as well as footage of the concentration and death camps that was used as proof during the Nuremberg Trials.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Most of the war sounds (diving planes, gunshots, artillery shots...) are not from the original footage and were added when the movie was edited. Particularly the case with the Stuka Scream (see below).
  • Stuka Scream: Used in footage with actual Stukas, but not limited to them. The most glaring example is its use during the Japanese Kamikaze sequence. The A6M "Zero" did not sound like this.
  • Tagline: From director Frédéric Rossif: "J'ai conçu ce film pour réveiller les mémoires." ("I conceived this movie to awaken memories.")
  • Tempting Fate: French Council President (Prime Minister) declared "We will win, because we are the strongest" ("Nous vaincrons parce que nous sommes les plus forts") in early 1940. Cue the footage of Germans defeating the French army.
  • Two-Act Structure: The 180 minutes version is divided in two parts, alluding to Nazi Germany's situation during the war: La Fête et le Triomphe (Celebration and Triumph, 1933-1942, from Hitler becoming chancellor to the victories of Erwin Rommel in North Africa) and La Défaite et le Jugement (Defeat and Judgement, 1942-1946, about the successive defeats of Nazi Germany until the final one in May 1945, with the last hour being about the Nuremberg Trials).
  • War Is Hell: The whole point of the thing, naturally. It even turns a bit literal whenever the Vangelis soundtrack sounds like an inferno in the war sequences.