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Docurama presents
The Restless Conscience (1992)

"There were a few people in Germany who recognized the emerging danger and responded to it. Who were they?"
- narrator (John Dildine)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 30, 2009

Stars: John Dildine, Klaus von Dohnanyi, Freya von Moltke, Willy Brandt, David Astor, Dr. Reinhard Goerdler, Dr. Marianne Meyer-Krahmer, Eberhard Bethge, Charlotte von der Schulenberg, Tis von der Schulenberg, Lt. Philip von der Schulenberg, Christabel Bielenberg, Perter Bielenberg, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist, Axel von der Busshche, J.G. de Beus, Barbara von Krauss, Barbara von Haeften, Rosemarie Reichwein, Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier, Dorothee Fliess, Dr. Arvid Broderson, Baron Ludwig von Hammerstein, Bernd Wehner, Georg Sigismunvon Oppen, Uta van Arrotin, Dr. Clarita von Trott
Director: Hava Kohav Beller

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some graphic war footage)
Run Time: 01h:52m:42s
Release Date: March 31, 2009
UPC: 767685146521
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B-B- D+

DVD Review

One of the people interviewed in this 1992 documentary refers to Adolph Hitler as a "leader from nowhere," and in examining the rise of the Nazi regime director, Hava Kohav Beller interweaves the lives of a large number of German resisters who risked everything to put a stop what they perceived as the "criminality of the Nazis." As Hitler steamrolled violently across Europe, there were a number of attempted coups (over 20) that ultimately failed, but beneath it all these small bands of diverse resisters—many of them high-ranking officers—continually fought in the shadows, putting them and their loved ones in grave danger.

Using a mixture of interviews and archival footage (and thankfully not a single re-enactment to be found), Hava Kohav Beller spans the years from Hitler's rise in the early 1930s to the so-called trials of captured Nazi resisters in 1944. The people interviewed include friends and family members of key individuals, and in some cases a few surviving resisters themselves, as well as Willy Brandt, the former chancellor of West Germany; they all share recollections of those dangerous times, and what it was that drove certain folks to fight back. Clearly these German rebels battled their own personal morals in going up against Hitler, and their stories are fascinating as well as harrowing, rich with national pride and unimaginable courage.

But what makes The Restless Conscience truly come alive is the vast array of archival footage on display. Now, I've seen a lot of Nazi-centric documentaries, in large part due to that being a common go-to subject on The History Channel, so much so that the old joke is that it's also known as the Hitler Channel. With that disclaimer out of the way, I can honestly say that much of the footage I have not seen before, whether it is from Hitler headquarters at the Wolfsschanze or those ghastly one-sided trials. There are numerous old photos—some from family, some from military archives—of the main resisters, and through them we get to see the faces of these insanely brave men and women, quickly creating a strong visual marker for each person.

Hollywood may have tried to gloss up the coup attempts on Hitler with noisy war films like Valkyrie, but the real deal is infinitely more remarkable and tragic, and certainly more suspenseful than anything that features Tom Cruise in an eyepatch. There were very few happy endings for any of the resisters, and history tells us that by 1944 most had been rounded up and summarily executed—as were their families, in many cases. The Restless Conscience, which is filled with all sorts of compelling bravery and sacrifice, is also saddled with the overbearing ugliness and power of the Nazi regime. Yet for all the grim realities, the doc somehow conveys a sense of hope buried beneath tyrannical savagery.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Restless Conscience has been issued in its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. The doc is a combination of color (interviews) and black-and-white (archival footage), and it seems weird to say that the material from the 1940s looks better than the more recent talking head bits. Colors during the interviews are washed out, looking faded and often rather pale. The Hitler-era clips, on the other hand, are understandably a mixed bag of age-related quality issues, but any of the source flaws can easily be overlooked simply because the footage (and some it is truly remarkable) still exists.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a more than adequate 2.0 stereo mix. The John Dildine narration is notably deep and full-bodied; otherwise the film consists of assorted talking head interviews from different time periods that—while all discernible—sometimes come off fairly flat, with occasional hiss.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Pretty skimpy and plain in the extras department, with everything being text-based content. Material ranges from press blurbs, to a short history of the project, to an interview with director Hava Kohav Beller, while an assortment of student comments are about as filler-centric as you could imagine.

The disc is cut into 12 chapters.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Hava Kohav Beller's Academy Award-nominated documentary about a fiercely dedicated and courageous group of Nazi resisters uses interviews and archival footage to reveal that not everyone in Germany was a blind supporter of Adolph Hitler, and shows what they attempted to do to try and stop him. It's extremely difficult to try and put yourself in the place of these individuals; they did what they did knowing it would very likely cost them—and their families—their lives.

Powerful, tense and commanding, The Restless Conscience delivers a reminder that even in the worst of times—against staggering odds—some glimmer of hope can still exist.

Highly recommended.


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