It can be quite daunting for a cinema director to approach a time-worn subject from a fresh perspective, particularly when the audience is familiar with its narrative conclusion. Yet Volker Schlöndorff not only injects great intrigue into yet another World War II drama, but also invests such emotional intelligence into his screenplay that audiences could be forgiven for believing his film was about to rewrite the history books.
Adapted from the play Diplomatie by Cyril Gel, Diplomacy explores the relationship between two prominent figures of Vichy France, whose actions one August night in 1944 have the potential to change the outcome of the war. Under Hitler’s orders to annihilate the Parisian landscape, Wehrmacht General von Choltitz (André Dussolier) sets about its destruction with merciless Nazi precision. When Swedish Consul General Nordling (Niels Arestrup) arrives on the eve of the planned operation to persuade him to spare the capital, a flurry of mind games ensue and diplomatic niceties evolve into mentally charged hostilities. The outcome becomes anyone’s game.
Diplomacy descends into a battle of wills, and unlike most of the battles fought during the war, Paris’ fate does not lie in bloody armed conflict but rather in the mental resilience of two senior officials, contemplating the tragedies of life and death. Schlöndorff deliberately avoids indulging in wartime tropes and clichés but rather allows the two central performances to drive the narrative with mental alacrity and powerful endurance.
Diplomacy is a tense, dramatically charged account of two like-minded men, whose political ideologies place them at opposing sides of the bargaining table. The strength of Diplomacy lies not in a hackneyed portrayal of World War II, but in such emotional investment by the actors and director that it’s possible to conceive our enemy might not be such a stranger after all.
Diplomacy is released nationwide on 14th November 2014.
Watch the trailer for Diplomacy here: