After years of absence, Volker Schlöndorff, leading exponent of the New German Cinema, makes his comeback in Italian cinemas with ‘Diplomacy- A night to save Paris’, which is an adaptation of the play by CyrilGely. The German director chooses again the Second World War’s theme after ‘La mer à l’aube’, bringing to the big screen an episode that really happened.
Volker Schlöndorff and Emanuela Martini during the presentation of ‘Diplomacy- A night to save Paris’ (Photo by Bianca Brocchieri).
The action takes place over the night between 24 and 25 August 1944, when the Allies entered in Paris finally ending the war. Although the Nazis were aware of their imminent defeat, the Führer did not surrender and ordered at General Dietrich von Choltitz (played masterfully by Niels Arestrup) to burn Paris. However, with monuments and bridges mined and ready to explode, the order of Hitler, as we know, has never been executed. Even though the ending is obvious, Schlöndorff is able to create a captivating and pressing thriller thanks to the excellent interpretation of Niels Arestrup and André Dussollieras the Swedish console Raoul Nordling, and to the high skills of the director. The Maaurice Hôtel is the stage in which the duel between two star performers takes place: on one side there is Nordling, defender of humanity and symbol of a pacifist moral; on the other side, there is commander von Choltitz, faithful to the Nazi cause and obedient to each command given by his superiors. Proposing a reality as that of World War II, by now engraved on the collective memory, is the pretext that allows Schlöndorff to investigate the nature of the human soul, divided between political duty and a silent reminder of brotherhood. This particular episode has already been brought to the big screen in 1966 by René Clément in ‘Paris brûle-t-il?’, but the German director treats it in an innovative way by avoiding captions and illustrative style, and also combining cleverly evocative pictures of repertory with digital reconstructions of magical Parisian skyline.