The Red Baron aka Der rote Baron (2008) The Guilty Pleasure of an Enjoyable Air Combat Movie

The Red Baron a German/UK production with an international cast (two famous German actors, Matthias Schweighöfer (Schiller, Valkyrie) and Til Schweiger (King Arthur), and two British ones Lena Headey (300) and Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, Enemy at the Gates) is a real guilty pleasure. I am aware that it took a lot of liberties with the historical facts. Especially in Germany it was highly criticized for being too glorifying. The Red Baron exists in two versions, an English and a German one, that are quite different. In the English version this sporting hunter mentality of the Baron is much more accentuated while it is toned done in the German version. This might explain why the reception in the UK was far better. This and the German´s obsession with historical accuracy when it comes to their own history. And, last but not least, it is more appealing to hear the German actors speak English than German. It takes the edge out of their voices.

I am neither British nor German and just enjoyed this movie a great deal. A lot of gripping air combat scenes, an appealing cast, stunning cinematography and a great story.

The movie depicts Baron von Richthofen as a tragic hero. And a very noble man. Maybe that is not what he was… I don’t know. He was certainly not as good-looking as the actor Matthias Schweighöfer.

We see Baron von Richhofen´s early fascination with planes and flying. He is a rich aristocrat and once war breaks out it is only natural he should join the German airforce. To him the war is at first only a game, a sport. May the better one win. He is also capable of admiring others´, even British pilots´, exploits.

It is only after quite a long time, and through the beautiful nurse Käte (Lena Headey), he falls in love with, that he realises that the war in the air and the war in the trenches fought by the common man are two completely different things.

He also  realises that he is mainly used for propaganda purposes. He is the most succesful German fighter pilot and a national hero. Germany facing defeat needs someone like him to look up to. His superiors want him for propaganda only; he should not fly anymore as this is much too dangerous.

But The Red Baron loves nothing more than flying. And he does not want to be used.

Defying everything he flys again…

If your historical conscience will allow it, this movie is just something to enjoy. I truly like it and watched it more than once. We dont have many good air combat movies and even less that depict WWI.

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