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Bringing down the ‘Man with the Iron Heart’

  • ManwithIronheart2
He was known as the Butcher of Prague and as the architect of the Nazis’ Final Solution. Reinhard Heydrich was indeed the “Man with the Iron Heart”.
by PETER FELDMAN | Nov 16, 2017

While the film with this name is not the first about Heydrich, it brings a very fresh perspective on the subject.

It is set in 1942 during a time when the Third Reich was at its peak.

It chronicles the rise to power of this ruthless Nazi leader, brilliantly played by Jason Clarke. Heydrich was not only the brains behind the plan to annihilate the Jewish people, he was also the leader of Czechoslovakia under Nazi occupation, and the head of the Sicherheitsdienst (the SS intelligence agency).

The film also devotes time to a plot by two young Czech resistance recruits, Jozef Gabcik (Jack Reynor) and Jan Kubis (Jack O'Connell), to assassinate him in Prague.

French director Cédric Jimenez has fashioned a taut and thrilling production, which devotes equal time to two halves of a gripping narrative.

The first half looks at the unlikely ascent to power of Heydrich. The man was a loser who was dismissed from the navy and then egged on by his flag-waving, National-Socialism-loving wife (a cold, calculating Rosemund Pike) to succeed.

The second half catches up with the Czechoslovak Resistance fighters and their meticulous plot to assassinate him.

The film opens with a quick flash forward to the moments just before the assassination. It then backtracks to the German port city of Kiel in 1929, where we first meet Heydrich who is being court-martialled and dismissed, because of his relations with a woman.

At the time he was already courting his future wife, Lina, who suggests he join the Nazi Party. One thing leads to another and soon Nazi bigwig, Heinrich Himmler (played by a creepy Stephen Graham), asks him to lead the Nazi intelligence agency, the SD.

There is strong character development as Heydrich grows in stature and his cold, violent temper and penchant for killing emerges. We see this unfeeling monster come out of his shell.

At a party Lina is told by one of her husband’s colleagues that Hitler has nicknamed her husband “The Man with the Iron Heart”. Ironically, in the background we see him gently lifting up a baby.

Lina’s character is more complex. She starts off as an early Nazi sympathiser who genuinely believed the party could turn her country around. She gave her husband hope and a lucrative Nazi career, but soon realises she is married to someone who’s always absent and who treats her like a glorified caretaker of his children.

The film also reveals how the Nazis radically transformed from a disorganised group of dissatisfied rabble-rousers and losers, into a well-oiled, merciless war machine. Its systemic killings lead the top brass, including Heydrich, to devise something more efficient - the Final Solution.

A point about the film is that Nazi sadism and cruelty led to the deaths of many people across Europe and does not focus only on the Jewish aspect.

Visually stunning, this film has energy and verve and engages its audience with both its intellectual and emotional content and the quality of the acting. The action sequences, too, make compelling viewing.

I would rate it highly among this genre and is a must for members of the Jewish community with an interest in history.

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