Taking Sides review

Amid the rubble of post-World War Two Germany, a US Major (Harvey Keitel) is ordered to connect the renowned conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr Wilhelm Furtwängler (Stellan Skarsgård), to the Nazi party. The American believes that right is clearly on the victors' side and derides Furtwängler as "Hitler's bandleader", a collaborator who played for the Führer on the eve of his birthday. The musician's colleagues, however, testify to his integrity, stressing that he never joined the party and risked everything by helping Jews to escape abroad...

Scripted by The Pianist screenwriter Ronald Harwood from his own play and helmed by the veteran Hungarian director István Szabó (Sunshine), Taking Sides is an intriguing examination of the role of an artist within a tyrannical regime - which, in the case of the Nazis, revered classical music. It's overly polished in its historical recreations and a brash Keitel is miscast. But, steering wide of any easy resolutions, Szabó's movie is considerably enhanced by an impressive performance from Skarsgård as the bewildered yet defiant scapegoat.

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