Diplomacy (Diplomatie)

It was 70 years ago that Paris stood on the brink of destruction. With the arrival of the Allies imminent, Hitler gave orders that the city be reduced to rubble. Bombs were to be planted in the city’s bridges and most famous landmarks, including the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Since those landmarks are still standing, it’s obvious those orders weren’t carried out. The who and the why of how the city was spared is at the heart of Volker Schlöndorff’s (The Tin Drum) latest film, Diplomacy (Diplomatie).

The circumstances are historically accurate; the exchange between the Nazi commander charged with leveling Paris (played by Niels Arestrup) and the Swedish Consul General (André Dussollier) who sneaks into German headquarters to persuade him to spare the city is not. Schlöndorff shows the two men meeting in the commander’s hotel suite, the sounds of sporadic battle heard outside. The men talk long into the night. They negotiate, agree, argue, relent, then start all over again. It’s a verbal sparring match between the two. The commander, a man who has overseen the death of thousands of Jews, is a loyal German patriot. He’s also tired and knows the German defeat is near. Does the Swedish Consul awaken in him a sense of conscience? Or is it simple self-preservation that motivates the commander? In the end, it’s the city that matters. This is a joint presentation by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Holocaust Museum Houston.

5 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑639‑7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.
Sun., Jan. 4, 5 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 9, 7 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 10, 7 p.m., 2015

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Olivia Flores Alvarez