VALKYRIE

tom-cruise-valkyrie

Overall Impression – A mostly solid tale about personal sacrifice… if you can forgive Germans speaking in American and English accents.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Claus von Stauffenberg.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: assassinate the Nazi power players and stage a government coup.  Personal: free Germany from its real enemy – the Nazis.  Private: fight for a cause that’s worth risking his and his family’s lives for.

Who’s trying to stop him? – The Nazis and some members within Stauffenberg’s own coalition.

What happens if he fails? – Stauffenberg and everyone he knows will be executed, including his family.  Germany will remain under the control of the Nazis, and any hope of a peaceful end to the war will be lost.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – While Stauffenberg is a solder thrust into bureaucracy, he’s alone because he questions the very cause he’s fighting for, while everyone around him is dangerously loyal.

Wanderer – Stauffenberg is brought to a secret society that plans to assassinate Hitler.  They flesh out an amended operation “Valkyrie”, but to make it official Stauffenberg needs Hitler’s signature.  If that weren’t daunting enough, they must convince certain high-ranking Nazis to join their cause in order to succeed.

Warrior – The plan is put into action, but when it fails (nothing ever goes according to plan), they’ve got to come up with another before they lose their opportunity.  After the deed is carried out, Stauffenberg and his men launch the coup, gradually assuming control from the Nazis.

Martyr – After that plan fails (nothing ever goes according to plan), Stauffenberg and his men fight to the bitter end as the Nazis wrench back the control they momentarily lost.  

AND, IN THE END…

Valkyrie is about sacrifice.  What drives a person to become a martyr?  What does it mean to be a martyr?  These are all questions that should be asked about the heroes of the past if we’re to understand what they did, and why they did it.

Did Valkyrie ask these questions?  Arguably, yes.

I say ‘arguably’ because it’s a matter of opinion (and of historical knowledge).  We know that Stauffenberg and his team are doomed to failure before we see the movie, and one could argue that this robs it of any real dramatic tension: there’s no ‘will they/won’t they succeed’ dynamic. 

One could also argue (as I’m more inclined) that this worked in the movie’s favor.  Since we know they’re going to fail, we can better identify with Stauffenberg because deep down, he knows that they’re going to fail too.  I would argue that Stauffenberg understood he was making the ultimate sacrifice before he even decided to fight the Nazis, and everything after that point is a window into the mind of a martyr.  

Dan Pilditch

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One Response to “VALKYRIE”

  1. Jeff January 14, 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    Is the fact that we know they are ultimately not going to succeed the main thing that makes us consider the main character empathetic?

    I’m just saying, a Nazi with an eye patch is not easily sided with. Seems like he would have to pet a lot of dogs for this to work. Hell, he almost has to be running his own little puppy farm, scratching their bellies between meetings with the other conspirators.

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