Is The Fallen (2004) The Final Sacrifice or Letters from the Dead?

It does happen quite often that I like movies less than most people but not in this case. People either like or hate The Fallen but there seem to be much more who do not like it. I don’t really understand why but I’m not sure I have seen The Fallen. I have watched The Final Sacrifce which can’t even be found on IMDb. An amazon reviewer states that The Final Sacrifice is a remake of The Fallen by the same director with the same actors??? I seem to remember having seen the beginning of the movie a few years back but something stopped me and when I started watching the other day it took quite a while until I got that I was watching The Fallen. Meanwhile I found out that Ari Traub directed and earlier version called Letters from the Dead (2003). Very confusing. Be it as it may, I hope one of my readers knows more. In any case, the movie I have seen, called The Final Sacrifice, was not a bad movie at all. On the very contrary.

It is almost the end of WWII. We are in Northern Italy, in the Alps, in some outpost guarded by Italian and German troops who do not get along well. The movie is trilingual (which might have been a reason for the lack of appreciation) and for once the actors are of the “correct nationality”. No silly American flavored Italian.

The Germans try to defend their line against the attacking Americans. The Italians who should help, are, apart from an aristocratic officer, not that keen on assisting. The people and villages around them are their people, their families. More and more they think it is unjustified that they have been dragged into this war by their government. Many of the farmers around are selling goods on the black market, others join the Resistance.

When the Italian army and Italian Resistance meet, it’s a sad affair. Usually no one shoots and a few soldiers desert but as soon as the Germans turn up, there will be severe punishment for every one.

The Americans seem to be enjoying their stay in Italy. It isn’t as rough as Africa, nor as bloody as France or Belgium. At least not at this point in time. And they know they are winning which helps as well.

The Final Sacrifice of the title is a last desperate attempt of a German officer, who was a real moron all through the movie, to fight off the enemy almost on his own. The orders are to guard the post no matter what. Knowing the order makes no sense and the end is coming, he tries to save at least his men.

Admittedly the American parts were not that perfect, the German point of view was on the sentimental side but, and that’s why this movie gets 3.5 from me, the Italian point of view is extremely well told. It shows how delicate, complicated, desperate their situation was. The movie is also in a clichéd way funny, the difference between the Germans and the Italians leads to one slapstick-like clash after the other.

As I said, I liked it, it isn’t fantastic and will not make a Top 100 but it is a worthy attempt at showing a part of history that hasn’t been explored enough, namely the role of Italy in WWII.

I suggest you watch it and come back and tell me how you liked it.


6 thoughts on “Is The Fallen (2004) The Final Sacrifice or Letters from the Dead?

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Sounds interesting. I found it on Net Flix streaming so I can watch it. They also had “Letters from the Fallen”, but it is not available. They do not sound like the same movie based on the summaries.

    • Maybe “Letters from the Fallen” is another one. The precursor of this one is called “Letters from the Dead”.
      Yes, watch it and let me know. It isn’t flawless but you might like it better than Miracle at St. Anna.

  2. I also found it on Net Flix and watched it awhile ago. Didn’t really care for it a whole lot, but it is indeed an interesting examination of the Italian experience. Also found it interesting that the American troops were rear-echelon rather than the usual forward combat types. Gave the whole thing a different dynamic. I guess in the end the point of the movie was that random death gets everyone in war. I also had seen Miracle at St. Anna & still have no clue what point Spike Lee was trying to make.

    • I can see how someone could be underwhelmed by The Fallen but I couldn’t understand truly bad reviews and very low rating. There is so many movies that are worse out there. Being half Italian i did probabaly relate much more than others. It still isn’t the definite movie on Italy during WWII. The ending was alos dubious. To a certain extent it wanted to show how a total moron can chnage into a halfway decent person when facing death…
      I also liked Miracle at St. Anna apart from the frame story and the super tacky ending. But I do like Spike Lee in general.

  3. DVD ‘extras’ on The Fallen reveal the problems inherent in the making and one major problem much of the original footage had to be discarded after some 3/4 of the film was shot as the camera hired was dysfunctional – the re-shoot saw scenes re-done and script writer changes and also casting changes, and again on the extras the the petty bickering between the American actors is incredibly funny and explains much of why they disliked ‘new’ cast members.
    Eventually The Final Sacrifice was put together from all material shot, this ‘version’ focussing on the Axis perspective and cutting out much of the original American sides performances. In this disc’s extras there is more footage of cast experiences, superb tales from Fabio Sartor (who kept the cast together in the background) and also with Thomas Pohn, playing the German captain, revealing that before filming one scene he realised the 1000 rounds per minute MG42 was fitted up with live ammunition …
    Both films / DVD’s are the result of how the process of film making intent can be altered by the variety of pressures from faulty cameras, unmentioned studio backers and the factor of changing scriptwriters, various actors availability during that time and promotional film festival issues.
    For me, it is essential for the viewer to watch both films to appreciate the input from all involved. Like ‘spaghetti’ director Sergio Leone, Ari uses German actors to play Germans, Italians to play Italians and Americans to play Americans. In watching both, and using your own judgement and reasoning, a person can espescially appreciate Ari Taub’s original vision.

    • Thank you so much for this interesting comment. It would be fascinating to compare the two versions. I really like it when directors strife for language authenticity. Always and added bonus for me.

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