The Man with the Iron Heart (French title HHhH) is a French historical war thriller and drama released in 2017, directed and written by Cédric Jimenez, and also written by David Farr and Audrey Diwan. It is based on French writer Laurent Binet's novel HHhH and focuses on Reinhard Heydrich, his rise as one of the most influent and sinister leading figures of Nazi Germany and his assassination in German-Occupied Prague during World War II by a British-trained Czechoslovak commando.
The film's and novel's French title, HHhH, is an acronym that means "Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich" ("Himmler's brain is called Heydrich"), a joke said to have circulated in Germany at the time.
The film stars Jason Clarke as Reinhard Heydrich, Rosamund Pike as Lina Heydrich, Jack O'Connell as Jan Kubiš, Jack Reynor as Jozef Gabčík, Mia Wasikowska as Anna Novak and Stephen Graham as Heinrich Himmler. It was shot in Prague and Budapest from September 2015 until February 2016.
See also and compare Hangmen Also Die! (1943), Hitler's Madman (1943), Atentát (1964), Operation Daybreak (1975) and Anthropoid (2016), all about the same historical events. The latter was shot at the same time and released a few months prior to it and only covers the operation and aftermath from the point of view of the Czechoslovak commando.
This movie contains examples of:
- Artistic Licence – History:
- Heinrich Mueller is presented as a Nazi Party member who joined Heydrich's intelligence agency under Hitler's direct orders. Mueller didn't actually join the party until 1939 and was blindly obedient to the state instead, suppressing communist movements while also urging the Bavarian government to retaliate against the Nazis before they seized power. Heydrich mainly recruited Mueller because the latter's actions had made him politically vulnerable (and thus, dependent on Heydrich's patronage) and because he saw an advantage to keeping the SS independent of the party.
- While the climaxes of Atentát (1964), Operation Daybreak (1975) and Anthropoid (2016) were filmed at the Orthodox church where the Last Stand of Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš happened, the climax of The Man with the Iron Heart has been filmed at a different church, and a Catholic one in Budapest at that.
- German soldiers being killed during the Last Stand at the church, with automatic weapons. The commando had only pistols when the assault happened, and the German force sent to catch/kill them only suffered five lightly wounded.
- The village of Lidice wasn't just burned down by the Germans as reprisals for the death of Heydrich like it is in the film. That village was razed to the ground, erased from existence. Roads leading to it were diverted, the ground was levelled and the cemetery was emptied of its dead and looted.
- Assassination Attempt: A reenactment of the most famous assassination attempt of World War II (with perhaps the exception of the July 20, 1944 plot against Adolf Hitler, although Anthropoid was successful, if costly in lives).
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Every resistance member who doesn't get killed by Germans in the aftermath of the attack dies with either a Cyanide Pill or a self-shot bullet in the head.
- Biopic: Starts like one about Heydrich's life up until he is appointed Reichsprotektor of Bohemia-Moravia mid-way through the movie, then the movie focuses on the Czechoslovak resistants. Then focuses on Heydrich again as he is dying.
- Blackmail: Heydrich uses a general's weakness for prostitutes to blackmail him.
- British Nazis: British actors Rosamund Pike and Stephen Graham as Lina Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler.
- Coffin Contraband: How Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík are supposed to be smuggled out of Prague after the assassination. Unfortunately, they are sold out by a Turncoat and the church they're hiding in is quickly besieged.
- Downer Ending: Heydrich dies, but so do pretty much every Czechoslovak character involved in the operation bar Anna. And about 5000 Czech people were murdered in reprisals, with the village of Lidice practically wiped from the map most notably. And it was all Truth in Television.
- "Everybody Dies" Ending: Nearly every member of the Czech resistance involved in the plot dies in the aftermath of Heydrich's assassination. A Foregone Conclusion, given that the film is about historical events.
- From Nobody to Nightmare:
- Heydrich, who goes from a young officer who gets fired from the German navy because of a sex scandal to one of the brains behind the industrial murder machine that was The Holocaust.
- Same about Heinrich Himmler, who goes from chicken breeder to the head of the SS.
- The Ghost: Adolf Hitler is mentioned a lot, and a speech of his is heard over the film's opening scene, but he doesn't show up in person. There's one scene where it appears that Heydrich is addressing Hitler directly, but it's set up from Hitler's point of view.
- Historical Domain Character: Reinhard Heydrich, obviously. Then also a lot of people gravitating around the events, from Heydrich's wife Lina to Heinrich Himmler and the Czechoslovak resistants who carried out the attack, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík most notably. Unlike Anthropoid however, a number of resistants' names are fictional outside of Kubiš and Gabčík.
- How We Got Here: The film opens on the day of the attack on Heydrich, 27 May 1942. Then it cuts right at the moment Heydrich's car is attacked and we're back in 1929 to follow Heydrich's life.
- If We Get Through This…: Kubiš and Gabčík dream to settle in America, provided they escape the Germans after the attack.
- Industrialized Evil: Heydrich creates the Einsatzgruppen in 1941 in order to "cleanse" Eastern Europe of its Jews in the wake of the Wehrmacht, effectively industrializing murder. Then he proposes plans for the Final Solution at the infamous Wannsee conference.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Heydrich experiences resistance from at least one Wehrmacht general, who refuses to share information with the SS to apprise them of the army's movements. Heydrich resorts to blackmailing the man.
- Last Stand: After the Germans discover the church where they're hiding, the last seven plotters hold off a vastly larger, vastly better-equipped German force for quite a while (in Real Life they did so for six hours), killing a number of them in the process. Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš end up the last two left alive, and they decide to shoot themselves in the head.
- Men Don't Cry: What Lina tells to Heydrich when he's desperate after being fired from the navy because of a sex scandal.
- Nazi Protagonist: Obviously the case for the parts that focus on Heydrich's life. Most notably, it was his wife Lina who "converted" him to national-socialism.
- The Purge: Heydrich is seen participating in the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934, in which Adolf Hitler had several leaders of the Sturmabteilung (SA, the Nazi party's brown-shirted core enforcers and militants) killed as they were no longer needed and represented a potential threat to his power.
- Red Baron: Heinrich Himmler nicknames Heydrich "The Man with the Iron Heart" (which functions as a Title Drop in the countries where the film has been released with that title).
- La Résistance: Operation Anthropoid aimed at "waking up" the Czech resistance to Nazi Germany.
- Scenery Porn: The snowy mountains where Kubiš Gabčík are parachuted.
- Screaming Birth: Lina screams in pain while giving birth.
- State Sec: Heydrich proves himself very efficient at gathering intel and cleansing opposition to the nazi regime once he joins the SS and climbs the ranks in it in the early 1930s.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The movie naturally averts the trope since it's based on history, but there's still a little shade of it when Himmler makes a Nazi salute and grins out of respect for an (in his eyes) irreplaceable national-socialist peer as Heydrich passes away.
- Title Drop: At one point, Himmler is talking with Lina and mentions the nickname Hitler gave to Heydrich, "The Man with the Iron Heart".
- Villain Protagonist: Heydrich's rise to power and subsequent crimes drive the plot forward.
- Wicked Cultured: As in real life, Heydrich practices fencing and plays violin.