Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The 13th Mission (2004), The Goebbels Experiment (2005)

Two Second World War documentaries make for two very different viewing experiences in the days leading up to Remembrance Day in Canada.


The 13th Mission is a powerful effort from Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that nicely ties together a pair of storylines -- the women who built Avro Lancaster bombers at a factory in southern Ontario and the seven-man crew that flew one of the aircrafts a week after D-Day. It's a good companion piece to Rosies of the North, a National Film Board documentary reviewed in September by this site.


Actors stand in for the real workers and flyers, as if they are being interviewed more than 60 years ago about their experiences. But their words are taken from interviews and letters they wrote at the time. Audiences hear what these people had to say about their experiences, good and bad, without a scriptwriter acting as middleman.

The women describe the pride they took in their job and the importance of making sure each rivet was properly placed.

The bomber crew recounts one of the most amazing stories of the Canadian military during the six-year war. When their Lancaster was hit by a German fire, mid-upper gunner Andrew Mynarski (Scott Gibson) saw rear-gunner Pat Brophy (Shawn Mathieson) was trapped. Rather than bail out, Mynarski crawled through burning hydraulic fluid to try and free his friend. Mynarski was awarded the Victoria Cross, for gallantry, for his efforts.


Accompanying the docudrama is a 13-minute documentary from The Journal, a CBC Television current affairs program. Five of the seven members of that bomber crew reunite and share their memories of Mynarski. He couldn't get Brophy out and jumped from the bomber with his clothing and parachute on fire. Brophy shares his memories about the night and a special gift he had from Mynarski on that flight.

The 13th Mission, and the documentary, are rivteing viewing.

Not so successful, surprisingly, is The Goebbels Experiment. Joseph Goebbels was the minister of propaganda for Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

This effort from German filmmaker Lutz Hachmeister (The Real American: Joe McCarthy) also draws exclusively from Goebbels' own words, narrated by British actor Kenneth Branagh.

He describes his lonley childhood, health problems and his barely getting by when he enters the workforce. In 1924, he calls for a firm hand in Germany and the throwing out of the Jewish people. Goebbels meets Hitler in 1926 and is thrilled with the First World War veteran's plans for his country.

"He has it all thought out," said Goebbels. He praises Hitler for his "stupendous mind" and notes he is "a born motivator."

The 13th Mission has a narrator to provide context of Canada's involvement in the Second World war, with one million serving in the military and another military dedicated to the war effort back home.

Such a guiding hand is missing in The Goebbels Experiment. There is startling footage in the film, inlcuding some in colour, and catty comments from Goebbels about others, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

RATINGS: The 13th Mission 9/10
The Goebbels Experiment 7/10

For more information on The 13th Mission, go to www.cbc.ca/canadianexperience

FUN FACTS: Actor Scott Gibson apepared in another Second World War effort, The Pacific. Christopher Jacot guested on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

No comments: