Filmmaking doesn’t get much simpler than that in this picture by Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer, which records–without any background beyond the briefest introduction–the recollections of Traudl Junge, who served as one of Adolf Hitler’s private secretaries between 1942 and his death in the bunker in April, 1945. The camera simply focuses on the elderly woman as, in a series of sessions in 2001, she recounted (after half a century of silence) her memories and offered observations on the past with the benefit of hindsight, smoking endless cigarettes as she did so; the only variant comes when she was given the opportunity to watch some of her earlier remarks and then add to them. The result is certainly not a portrait of evil, but a snapshot of a woman who admits that at the time she witnessed things from a totally blinkered perspective; it’s also valuable historical document, preserving an account of the Fuhrer’s last days by one of the few observers who survived them. Though it offers little new information, the very intimacy of the project gives it surprising power.
As Junge recollects Hitler, he was a soft-spoken, almost avuncular figure, who was, for example, sensitive to how a young secretary might be overwhelmed by his very presence. He was considerate of his staff and, she remembers, especially proud of his dog–indeed, she observes that it was his decision to test his poison capsules on the canine near the very end that first revealed his true nature to her. And he never spoke of the Final Solution; Junge heard but one veiled reference to it in all her years of service. Now she looks back on her naivete with regret.
It’s not easy to feel sorry for Traudl Junge, when one reflects on the horrors that surrounded her career with Hitler. Yet there is a certain poignancy here, especially when the final crawl informs us that she died of cancer just hours after “Blind Spot” premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. She was 81.