Before the Fall

“Napola,” the German title of this 2004 drama, refers to the elite academies of the Third Reich that groomed the cream of Aryan youth for bigger things. The hero (played with the right amount of adolescent insouciance by Max Riemelt) is a working-class boy admitted to one of the academies for his formidable boxing skills, and through him director Dennis Gansel captures the ordinariness of Hitler's supporters. The film also shows how easily people were seduced by the Reich's ironclad ideology and rigid moral code; in one terrifying scene the cadet loses his innocence and idealism when he hunts and kills escaped Russian prisoners who turn out to be children like him. With Tom Schilling and Devid Striesow. In German with subtitles. 110 min.

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