Diplomacy: What It Takes to Convince a Nazi Not to Blow Up Paris
director Volker Schlöndorff’s Diplomacy
, an absorbing adaptation of Cyril Gély’s 2011 play, centers on cultural preservation in a time of war, but it’s mostly an opportunity to watch two of France’s finest actors go head to head. The year is 1944, and the month is August. For all the destruction Hitler has caused, his drive to annihilate knows no bounds, and the destruction of Paris marks one of his lesser-known schemes. When Swedish Consul General Nordling (the sly André Dussollier, a favorite of the late Alain Resnais) gets wind of the plan, he engages in a verbal duel with German General von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup, who looks more and more like Rutger Hauer every day), the commander in charge of blowing up bridges in order to plunge one of the world’s great cities into chaos. As the consul tries to talk him out of it, the general offers counterarguments. There are cutaways to evacuations and shootings, but Schlöndorff concentrates on talk, which makes Diplomacy
stagy in a way that serves the material. The suspense stems not from the foreseen conclusion, but from the thinking that leads up to it, especially when the men speak from their hearts rather than for their countries.