Essay on Valkyrie By Bryan Singer: Film Analysis

The film, Valkyrie, directed by Bryan Singer, was released in 2008. It deals with events in Germany from 1943-44. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was introduced as the main conspirator in the Valkyrie plot to kill Adolf Hitler. The film’s exploration of von Stauffenberg’s character and his motives were limited and substantially inaccurate, mostly altered to make him appear more noble than he really was. The depictions of the short-term impacts of the plot were largely accurate, including the executions of the conspirators, while, the long-term impacts, involving Hitler’s declining health and the outcome of the war weren’t depicted in the film.

Originally, Valkyrie was an emergency plan created by Hitler to use the Reserve Army to prevent any civil disruption in emergency situations including Hitler’s death, an invasion or a labourer’s protest. In the event of an emergency situation, Hitler designed the plan so he would be able to regain control of the government within six hours. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, with his intent to kill Hitler, modified the original Valkyrie plan, so that he would be able to take control of the government within three hours-after the Schutzstaffel, (SS) appeared to have staged a military coup. The complex plot was the framework for the film.

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s character was portrayed accurately to an extent Von Stauffenberg’s character is portrayed in the film as heroic and with great ambitions for his country. The film provides some clues to support this. Von Stauffenberg was of the ancient Swabian nobility. Readings suggest that Swabian nobles were spiritual and known to revolt against authority. Von Stauffenberg’s plot to assassinate Hitler is evidence of this. Swabians also have a special love of music, also shown in the film, where it appears that Von Stauffenberg got his idea for Operation Valkyrie, listening to Wagner’s “Walkure”.

Further, it is in Swabians’ nature to be persistent, careful, fussy, tidy, well organized and hardworking. Von Stauffenberg expresses these traits in the film and are confirmed Gallante’s book and History Channel’s “Valkyrie” documentary. Von Stauffenberg is also depicted as man of honour and military bearing. This is an accurate portrayal. Von Stauffenberg decided, without hesitation, to join the military as all the men from both sides of his family had been in the military and ministers of state. He was always aware of his sway over his peers and believed he could influence young people and build their values.

This shows that he believed that he could make a difference in the world. His spirit of loyalty and frankness was portrayed accurately in this sense, as he shows his loyalty and devotion to Operation Valkyrie, the other conspirators and the way he speaks appears to be direct and to the point about his ideas. In terms of character, Valkyrie, however dwell on von Stauffenberg’s long-term association with Nazism. Though, von Stauffenberg was a convinced Catholic but didn’t openly identify as one. In protest, however, he attended church as the Nazis began to oppress the clergy.

Von Stauffenberg, however, wasn’t always against the Nazi regime; in fact, he supported the Nazis’ promise of spiritual renewal. Being of Swabian nobility, this was particularly special to him. As parliamentary democracy wasn’t succeeding in Germany, von Stauffenberg saw the hope that the Nationalist Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi party) planned to bring to Germany. Initially, he was an anti-Semite himself and a supporter of the regime, although, didn’t approve of the mass executions of the Jews. The film shows von Stauffenberg opposing Hitler and the regime.

It appears to the audience that he was always against Hitler and the Nazi ideologies. Therefore, the film portrayed von Stauffenberg’s character falsely in some parts maybe to make the character more appealing to a vast audience. Von Stauffenberg’s underlying motives and reasons to kill the Fuhrer were shown in the film accurately, though, to a degree. At the beginning of the film, Von Stauffenberg is serving in the 10th Panzer campaign in Tunisia. He is narrating while writing in his journal about his view on Hitler saying, “The Fuhrer’s promises of peace and prosperity have fallen by the wayside… eaving in their wake a path of destruction”, this therefore suggests that Hitler was leading Germany to a most certain defeat and von Stauffenberg, therefore, wanted the war and the Fuhrer’s rule to end.

Von Stauffenberg’s character in the film appears to be spotless, but he had ulterior motives nonetheless. While serving in his Hoepner’s 3d Armoured division in Thuringerwald , however, his letters revealed that he referred to Germany as “mein Reich”, suggesting he wanted more power than what was depicted in the film. It appears in the film, that Von Stauffenberg wants to restore democracy, while the readings suggest otherwise.

He found guidance between a mixture Catholic religious precepts and an aristocratic sense of honour, confirmed in Peter Galante’s book, Operation Valkyrie: The German Generals’ Plot against Hitler. In the film, von Stauffenberg proclaimed, “You can serve Germany or the Fuhrer, not both”, showing that his motive was to serve Germany. As Von Stauffenberg had antagonistic views against parliamentary democracy, he dreamed of”an idealized medieval Empire” where Europe was subject to Germany, inspired by the poems of Stefan George, of whom he was a devout follower.

This is confirmed in Richard J Evans’ article. In the film, it appears that Von Stauffenberg wanted to restore a democratic government, which is evidently untrue. In fact, Von Stauffenberg entered the war with high hopes of creating a supreme Germany. Only when defeat appeared likely did he begin to oppose Adolf Hitler. Von Stauffenberg also stated in the film, “This is not a political, but a military operation”, showing how the conspiracy against Hitler was purely based on military motives, as many generals and colonels saw defeat looming in the distance and wanted to prevent total defeat.

The motives were not given much background information and thus encourage inaccurate descriptions and interpretations of his motives. Furthermore, “Valkyrie”, portrays Von Stauffenberg as man who’s main motive is trying to save Germany. The clear line between “good” and “bad” was established when Tresckow says “God promised Abraham he would not destroy Sodom, if he could find just ten righteous men; for Germany it may come down to one”. Von Stauffenberg appears to be “heroized” while Hitler is the villain.

The film further suggests an aim was to “shut down the concentration camps. While on campaign many years earlier in Poland, however Von Stauffenberg wrote “thousands prisoners of war will be good for our agriculture”. This suggests he was initially comfortable with using captured people for labour purposes, thus helping Germany to prevail. The short-term impacts of Operation Valkyrie were the delay and failure of the operation that lead to the immediate executions of the conspirators, including von Stauffenberg, Olbricht, Haeften, Quirnheim and the suicide of Tresckow.

Seven hundred people connected to the 20th July plot were arrested, over two hundred were executed. Operation Valkyrie was not initiated early enough, due to mixed reports on Hitler’s condition; it was only initiated when von Stauffenberg returned from the Wolf’s Lair . If the Fuhrer were to have been killed, there may still have been room for resistance by the SS, as the plan was delayed by three hours, also being accurately portrayed in the film. Hitler was alive and stated “Fate has selected me for my mission. Otherwise I wouldn’t be alive”.

Hitler only suffered superficial injuries, , however, the executions and deaths of the conspirators were imminent. Later that night, death sentences for General Olbricht, Colonel von Stauffenberg, Haeften and Quirnheim were carried out and they were all shot by a firing squad. The long-term impacts of the plot were not revealed in the film. The ending of the film, however, provides the written text of “Nine months, with Berlin surrounded, Hitler committed suicide”. There is no footage, which may have been helpful to see how long term impacts affected Hitler and the lives of Germans.

Operation Valkyrie failed to assassinate Hitler, and it only impacted the war in subtle ways. In the aftermath of this attempt from March until May 1945, the failed plot encouraged Hitler to think every officer and General was a schemer. His health declined rapidly, suffering from insomnia, stomach cramps and spasms from his left arm. Hitler’s personality also began to change. He was impossible to reason with and occasionally he lost all self-control; his violent language increased also.

Another impact of the failed plot was that due to the loss of so many officers in the purge after the plot failed, the Allied Forces were taking German territory in Northern France. Hitler did have enough composure to counter a defence, however this lead soldiers to their unnecessary deaths. After the Fuhrer’s suicide on the 30th of April 1945, the conspirators, were seen as traitors. Later, the son of a conspirator, Dr. Axel Smend, was given the reason for his terrible behaviour by a school teacher stating “no wonder, he is the son of a traitor”.

Now, however, von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators were now deemed brave and courageous for trying to serve their country. This is confirmed in History Channel’s Valkyrie documentary. Colonel von Stauffenberg’s character in the Hollywood film, Valkyrie, to some extent, portrayed the character, motives and impacts of von Stauffenberg’s actions accurately, due to some inconsistencies including von Stauffenberg’s “heroization”, lack of background information of von Stauffenberg’s involvement in the Nazi regime and the impacts of his plan in the long term historical accuracy of the film is compromised.

Von Stauffenberg’s character appeared to be a hero, due to the Hollywood involvement however didn’t portray von Stauffenberg very accurately.. The long-term effects, although not shown in the film, showed von Stauffenberg’s Valkyrie plan lead Hitler to become ill, even though of the high death toll, Von Stauffenberg had saved Germany from Hitler’s wrath, eventually when he committed suicide. The name of the conspirators after the event and the war made them appear as “traitors” to Germany, however, now, their services and bravery are acknowledged dearly.