Taking Sides | Chicago Reader

Taking Sides

Adapted by Ronald Harwood from his stage play, this dialectical drama has plenty of creaky moments, but Harvey Keitel compensates with a canny, surprising performance as an American major in postwar Germany who's ordered to make an example of the great conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler (Stellan Skarsgard) as part of the denazification program. A former insurance salesman and a musical philistine, the major is appalled by the holocaust and disgusted by the conductor's arrogant conviction that his gifts make him “more than a citizen.” The score mixes real Furtwängler recordings of Beethoven and Bruckner with re-creations by the CSO's Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin—including a rendition of Beethoven's Fifth that's interrupted by a bombing blitz in the film's impressive opening. Istvan Szabo (Mephisto) directed. 105 min.

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