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Film / Diplomacy (2014)
aka: Diplomacy

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Diplomacy (in French Diplomatie) is a 2014 Franco-German film directed by Volker Schlöndorff, starring André Dussollier and Niels Arestrup. It is based on a 2011 play of the same title by Cyril Gély.

On 22 August 1944, as the Allied forces are approaching Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz (Arestrup), commander of the Groß Paris (the German troops occupying the city), is ordered by Adolf Hitler to destroy the city. All night long, Raoul Nordling (Dussollier), a Swedish consul, tries to dissuade him from doing it.

See also Is Paris Burning?, an older take on this story with Orson Welles and Gert Fröbe in the same roles, albeit as just one storyline among many others in the bigger picture of the Liberation of Paris.


Diplomacy provides examples of:

  • Analogy Backfire: Nordling compares Von Choltitz, who blindly obeys Hitler when Hitler orders him to destroy Paris, with Abraham, who blindly obeyed God when God ordered him to kill his own son Isaac. Nordling asks who would like to have a father like Abraham, who is ready to sacrifice his own son. Later, Von Choltitz tells Nordling that, if he does not destroy Paris, the Nazis will kill his wife and children, so he has to obey orders because he is not ready to sacrifice his children.
  • Based on a True Story: The film is based on true events. The real-life Raoul Nordling tried to dissuade Von Choltitz from destroying Paris, but the real story is heavily dramatized for the film.
  • Bookcase Passage: There is one in the office of Von Choltitz in the Hôtel Meurice. Nordling uses it to get secretly into his office. He shows Von Choltitz how to open the secret door: a book in a bookcase must be tilted.
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  • Chromosome Casting: All the main characters are male. Only a few women appear as minor characters (a chambermaid, a woman who is putting on makeup...).
  • Les Collaborateurs: There is a French engineer who helps the German to plant bombs in Paris. Subverted in the end, when he shoots down the German soldier who was going to set off the bombs in spite of Von Choltitz's order to cancel the operation.
  • Dramatization:
    • In real life, the Germans were ordered to destroy Paris, but they had few troops and few explosives to carry this order out, so the threat was not as serious as depicted in the film. Moreover, there was no specific instruction to destroy the most famous monuments.
    • In real life, Von Choltitz and Nordling always used an interpreter when they talked together, because Von Choltitz did not know French.
    • In real life, Von Choltitz and Nordling met in August 1944, but the decisive meeting during the night of 22 August is a creation of the writer.
    • The Bookcase Passage in the Hôtel Meurice does not exist.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: There are several shots of the most famous monuments of Paris in the end. Justified, since the topic of the movie is their possible destruction.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Nordling happens to be in the secret passage right when the Germans are explaining in detail their plan to destroy Paris, so he hears everything about it.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The whole film happens during the night between 22 and 23 August 1944.
  • The Film of the Play: The film is based on a 2011 play of the same title by Cyril Gély.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Paris still exists today, so it is easy to guess that Nordling will eventually persuade Von Choltitz not to destroy the city.
  • For the Evulz: The reason why Hitler wants to destroy Paris. The Germans admits that it will give no strategical advantage to Germany.
  • Just Following Orders: When Nordling tells Von Choltitz that destroying Paris is a crime and that it will give no strategical advantage to Germany, Von Choltitz answers that his duty is to follow orders no matter what.
  • Mirrored Confrontation Shot: The pose of Von Choltitz and Nordling on the film poster. The confrontation between the characters is only verbal in this case.
  • Monumental Damage: Subverted. The Germans are ordered to destroy the most famous monuments of Paris. They plant bombs in them, but in the end Von Choltitz cancels the operation.
  • La Résistance: French fighters attack the German troops left in Paris. Some of them sabotage the time switches of the bombs planted in Paris. The German reinforcements are stuck miles away from Paris because of the Resistance too. In the end, it is revealed that Nordling belongs to the Resistance.
  • Rousing Speech: In the end, Von Choltitz gives one to the German soldiers left to encourage them before a last fight. He says that he will fight with them as "a soldier among the soldiers" (which is the title of Von Choltitz's memoir).
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: How Nordling appears in the office of Von Choltitz. Von Choltitz has not heard him and he is very surprised when Nordling appears. Nordling then reveals that he has used a Bookcase Passage.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A caption in the end tells what happened to Von Choltitz and his family.

Alternative Title(s): Diplomatie, Diplomacy