You can see why Robert Carlyle WANTED to play Hitler, I think: histrionic carpet-chewing must be tremendous physical fun when you have such a cast-iron historical excuse, and the psychology at least a certain technical fascination, but this two-part dramatisation of events in Austria and Germany 1900-34 was otherwise as rubbishy as they always seem to be – my mum and dad were even more dismissive about it than me, and THEY KNOW because THEY BOTH TOOK PART IN HIS DOWNFALL. Actually in 1934 my dad was three and my mum minus one – but that sort of brings us to the basic problem of this entire tale as thought-provoking screenplay material. In order for a historical retelling to be dramatic, it has to seem open-ended in the moment, at least for a bit of the way; to invoke the belief, however briefly, that things could have been otherwise, that today’s perspective had not yet coalesced: but who in the world (aside from inveterate nazifanciers like D.Irving) is going to attempt a reading where you the reader watch even minor, early events in the history of the National Socialist Party, and – momentarily – catch yourself thinking, “Well, this is rough and ugly stuff, sure, but this Hitler fellow could still turn out to be just what Germany needed“? It wasn’t Carlyle’s fault: AH *has* to be presented as pretty much a pantomime baddie from the start, an egotistic clown, a demented perve, a mile-off-obvious psychopath: anything less decided (especially any attempt to make him persuasive or attractive to anyone except complete moral idiots or utterly transparent villains) is going to be received as apologetics, and almost certainly never reach mainstream TV. Certainly you never seriously get to the question COULD IT HAPPEN HERE, NOW? because you never really get in reach of a (non-complacent) answer to the question WHY DID IT HAPPEN THERE, THEN? To get at that in screen drama, the Nazis would have to seem nice, or necessary, or at least exciting (to our own present-day sensibilities and judgments) – enough anyway for us to feel conflicted or uncertain for part of a comfy Saturday evening’s viewing. Actually my dad and I both had quite unsettling dreams after watching part two – but they were ridiculous rather than illuminating.

Do You See