Archive of films Taking Sides / Taking Sides - Der Fall Furtwängler

Germany / France / United Kingdom
2001, 105 min

Section: Horizons
Year: 2002

The world-famous Hungarian filmmaker István Szabó, who won an Oscar for his Mephisto (1981), chose to base his new film made in the West on a play by American dramatist Ronald Harwood. The story is inspired by a real event, the fate of a German conductor who is charged with collaboration after the War. The main characters, who try to impose their different views on one another, are played by Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgaard.


Berlin at the end of the Second World War. As part of the de-Nazification process, the American occupying authorities are planning the trial of the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, whom Goring appointed Prussian state councillor and Goebbels made Vice-President of the Reich’s Cultural Chamber. On the one hand the artist cultivated excellent relations with Hitler’s regime, on the other he used his position to engage Jewish musicians, thus saving them from certain death in concentration camps. American commander Steve Arnold, an insurance agent in civilian life entrusted with the Furtwängler case, tries his best to convince the conductor to help wipe out Nazism, thereby setting a good example which will stand him in good stead. As a fanatical advocate of justice, he recognises only Good and Evil. He cannot understand how his German colleagues, themselves victims of Nazism, can acknowledge Furtwängler as a great musician. He does not accept their view that politics and art have nothing in common: for him, Furtwängler’s guilt is unquestionable. This stage play by Ronald Harwood, on which the script is based, was inspired by a real case.

About the director

István Szabó (b. 1938, Budapest) began as a radio reporter. He studied directing at the Academy of Dramatic Arts and won an award at Cannes for his graduate film The Concert (Konecert)in 1963. Here he also won an award for his short film about young people, You (Te). In 1965 he made his first feature-length film, Age of Illusions (Almodozások kora), a serious reflection on the position of young university students in society. Other films include: Father (Apa, 1966), A Film about Love (Szerelmesfilm, 1970 ), 25 Firemen’s Street (Tuzoltó utca 25, 1973), Tales of Budapest (Budapesti Mesek, 1976), Confidence (Bizálom, 1979), Mephisto (1981), Colonel Redl (Redl Ezredes, 1984), Hanussen (1988), Meeting Venus (1991), Sweet Emma, Dear Böbe (Edes Emma, drága Böbe, 1991), Sunshine (1999). He received an Oscar for Mephisto. István Szabó lectures at various universities in Budapest, Berlin and London.

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Horizons
Director: István Szabó
Screenplay: Ronald Harwood podle své stejnojmenné divadelní hry/based on Ronald Harwood´s play of the same name
Dir. of Photography: Lajos Koltai
Editor: Sylvie Landra
Producer: Yves Pasquier
Production: Little Big Bear Film Production GmbH
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgard, Moritz Bleibtreu, Birgit Minichmayr, Oleg Tabakov, Ulrich Tukur, Hanns Zischler, August Zirner, Robin Renucci

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