Taking Sides (film)

2001 film directed by Sebastián Szabó

Taking Sides (German title Taking Sides - Der Fall Furtwängler) is a 2001 German-French-Austrian-British biographical drama film directed by István Szabó and starring Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgård. The story is set during the period of denazification investigations conducted in post-war Germany after the Second World War, and it is based on the real interrogations that took place between a U.S. Army investigator and the musical conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, who had been charged with serving the Nazi regime.


  • REICHSMINISTER: Dr. Furtwängler, I want to apologise personally for this power failure. I was so enjoying the performance. In times like these we need spiritual nourishment. A bomb explodes nearby. But I welcome this unexpected opportunity of talking to you. When you came on to the platform tonight, I thought you weren't well. You looked tired, (a warning) Get away from this bombing. Away from the war. Yes, you look tired...(a crooked smile) Even in this light. [bombing related power failure had just interrupted concert conducted by Furtwangler]

  • A MAN'S VOICE: Look at them. Men, women, kids. Boy, did they love him. You see, Steve, Adolf Hitler touched something deep, real deep and savage and barbaric, and it won't just go away overnight. It's got to be rooted out. You know what I think? I think they were all Nazis. And let's face it, their leaders, those bastards now on trial in Nuremberg, couldn't have done it alone....
  • WALLACE (U.S. Army four star general): He's as big as Toscanini, maybe even bigger. In this neck of the woods, he's probably Bob Hope and Betty Grable rolled into one.
  • STEVE: Jeez, and I never heard of him....
  • WALLACE: Well, they say here that when you went on a case, you stayed on it. (looks up at Steve.) Now we can't take every Nazi in this country to trial, although I would like to; it's an impossibility. So we're going for the big boys in industry, education, law, culture.
  • STEVE (U.S. Army major): Like this bandleader.
  • WALLACE: (a smile) Well, he's more than just a bandleader, Steve. He's a great conductor, a gifted artist. But we believe that he sold himself to the devil. Your number one priority from this moment on is to connect him to the Nazi Party. Don't be impressed by him. I want the folks back home to understand why we fought this war...
Steve wants to rise, but Wallace puts a hand on his shoulder to make him sit again.
  • WALLACE: Stay put, Steve. There is some other stuff that I'd like for you to see here. Background.
  • ON THE SCREEN: a Berlin sequence. Bombs falling. Ruins, a city devastated, empty. Flags of the four allied nations. Posters of Truman, Stalin, Churchill.
  • ARCHIVE FILM VOICE [U.S.Military education film]  : That is the hand that dropped the bombs on defenceless Rotterdam, Brussels, Belgrade. That is the hand that destroyed the cities, villages and homes of Russia. That is the hand that held the whip over the Polish, Yugoslav, French and Norwegian slaves. That is the hand that took their food.
Steve watches expressionless.
  • ON THE SCREEN: SHOTS of camp survivors. Then SHOTS of emaciated corpses being bulldozed into mass graves.
  • ARCHIVE FILM: Sanitary conditions were so appalling that heavy equipment had to be brought in to speed the work of cleaning up [thousands of corpses]...
The moment this appears, Steve rises and goes quickly.
  • ON THE SCREEN: piles of cadavers being bulldozed...

  • INT. MAJOR STEVE ARNOLD'S BEDROOM (I945) - NIGHT Steve having a nightmare, twisting, turning, moaning. He wakes with a cry. He is sweating. He turns on the light, looks at a clock, reaches for a cigarette, lights it. He smokes. He stares at the ceiling.

  • AMERICAN RADIO VOICE: Remember, men, no fraternisation. In a German town, if you bow to a pretty girl or pat a blond child, you bow to all that Hitler stood for. You bow to his reign of blood. You caress the ideology that meant death and destruction. You never know who was a member of the Nazi Party...

  • DYMSHITZ [Russian Colonel]: Let Furtwängler go. Please.
[they're both very drunk]
  • STEVE[American Colonel]: I have a duty.
  • DYMSHITZ: (flaring) Duty? I am sorry, duty? Duty f***ing duty. Trouble is, you Americans want everybody to live like you. We liberated Berlin, Major Steve, not you. Our duty also is to bring back the best of German culture.
Stung, Steve advances on him, almost as if he's about to attack him physically. He stops, sways a little, then, after a moment, drops down in a chair near to Dymshitz. They drink. Intimate.
  • STEVE: I'm gonna get that f***ing bandleader, Colonel. No deal. No f***ing deal.

  • ARCHIVES [U.S.Military education film]: You'll see ruins, you'll see flowers, you'll see some mighty pretty scenery, don't let it fool you. You are in enemy country. The Nazi party may be gone, but Nazi thinking, Nazi training and Nazi trickery remain. Somewhere in this Germany are two million ex-Nazi officials. Out of power but still in there and thinking, thinking about next time. Remember that only yesterday every business, every profession was part of Hitler's system. Practically every German was part of the Nazi network. They believed they were born to be masters....

  • EMMI [secretary]: When he made his decision, he couldn't have known everything. Especially not the way people like you do, who've returned from exile and feel that you have a right to pass judgement. Because you are blameless, you think you know best who is a sinner and who deserves forgiveness. But you have no idea how people lived here...

  • FURTWÄNGLER: I have always tried to analyse myself carefully and closely. In staying here, I believed I walked a tightrope between exile and the gallows. You seem to be blaming me for not having allowed myself to be hanged...
  • FURTWÄNGLER I didn't directly oppose the Party because I told myself, that was not my job. If I had taken any active part in politics I could not have remained here...
  • FURTWÄNGLER: What kind of a world do you want, Major? What kind of world are you going to make? Do you honestly believe that the only reality is the material world, so you will be left nothing, nothing but feculence... more foul-smelling than that which pervades your nights...How was I to understand, how was I to know what they were capable of? No one knew. No one knew. ...
  • STEVE'S VOICE: We handed Wilhelm Furtwängler over to the civil authorities and he was charged with serving the Nazi regime, with uttering anti-Semitic slurs, performing at an official Nazi Party function and with being a Prussian Privy Councillor. Dr. Furtwängler was acquitted. I didn't nail him. But I sure winged him. And I know I did the right thing.... Furtwängler resumed his career but he was never allowed to conduct in the United States. He died in 1954.
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