Calm at Sea

October 1941. Eighteen months into France’s occupation by German troops, young Communist members of the Resistance shoot dead an officer of the German Army. In retaliation, Hitler demands the deaths of 150 Frenchmen, as ‘retribution’. The targets are to be mostly young men believed to share the assassins’ political convictions. Most of these men are taken from an internment camp for opponents of the occupation; a 35-year-old French rural administrator is ordered to select the victims. Although the parish priest appeals to their conscience and moral sensibilities, both the German military and their French helpers slavishly follow their orders … [Synopsis courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival]

The Tin Drum

Oskar Matzerath, son of a local dealer, is a most unusual boy. Equipped with full intellect right from his birth he decides at his third birthday not to grow up as he sees the crazy world around him at the eve of World War II. So he refuses the society and his tin drum symbolizes his protest against the middle-class mentality of his family and neighborhood, which stand for all passive people in Nazi Germany at that time. However, (almost) nobody listens to him, so the catastrophe goes on…

Diplomacy

In the summer of 1944, Hitler gives orders that the French capital should not fall into enemy hands, or if it does, then ‘only as a field of rubble’. The person assigned to carry out this barbaric act is Wehrmacht commander of Greater Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, who already has mines planted on the Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre and Notre Dame and on the bridges over the Seine. Nothing should be left as a reminder of the city’s former glory. However, at dawn on 25 August, Swedish Consul General Raoul Nordling steals into German headquarters through a secret underground tunnel and tries to persuade Choltitz to abandon his plan …
Based on the eponymous play by Cyril Gély, Volker Schlöndorff has created a psychologically elaborate battle of words between two highly contrasting characters. While Choltitz entrenches himself behind his duty to obey unquestioningly all military orders, Nordling tries everything he can to appeal to reason and humanity and prevent the senseless destruction of Paris. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]