Monday, August 04, 2014


How was Paris liberated in 1944 with so little damage? It is something I have never thought about long enough to research. So I watched Diplomacy from a position of ignorance. Since I watched it I have done some research and realised that depending on which version of events you believe, this film may make you angry. Though if you are in that camp, the advertising for the film would be warning to stay away.

Diplomacy is based on a play and compresses the events of August 1944 into one day for dramatic effect. The Germans are in retreat in France after the D-day landing in June that year, and the Allies on the outskirts of Paris. General Dietrich von Choltitz is under orders from Hitler that:
"The city must not fall into the enemy's hand except lying in complete debris."
The engineers have prepared demolition charges on the bridges and major buildings and are awaiting orders to blow the place up. As we know this didn't happen we are confronted with: how were the Germans stopped?

Before dawn while General Choltitz is giving orders for the final preparations at his HQ in the Hotel Meurice he gets an unannounced visitor, Raoul Nordling, the Swedish Consul. The neutral diplomat has come to talk the general into disobeying Hitler and saving the city (and its inhabitants). Nordling's only weapon is his powers of persuasion. Not just to talk the general out of blowing up the city but also to avoid being thrown out into the street by a busy general preparing for the approaching Allied forces.

The conversations between the two men are punctuated by events outside (reports from subordinates, phone calls to Berlin, breakfast served by a maid). This film could have been subtitled "Two old men in a hotel room", but this is a hang over from the play it is based on and not a criticism. Each man brings out arguments and counter arguments as preparations for the demolition reach completion and the Allies get closer. The battle inside the hotel room seems more vital than the fighting in the streets.

Whether or not you believe that Choltitz or Nordling (or neither) was the saviour of Paris this is a great illustration of the power of argument and how to use persuasion from multiple angles. Both lead actors are eloquent advocates for their point of view and while polite to each other, use their rhetorical powers to the full.

Ian's rating 4/5 Anne's rating 4/5

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