EIFF 2015 – 13 Minutes (Elser) – The story of a man who almost changed history

One of the strangest experiences of reviewing movies at a film festival is going to press screenings first thing in the morning. You could be watching steamy sex scenes or extreme violence before you’ve even had your breakfast. That’s how I found myself sitting in a darkened theatre at 10am watching a man being brutally tortured by Nazis. The film is called 13 Minutes and it’s very good.

The planting of the bomb involved a lot of planning

The movie tells the story of Georg Elser a young German man who in 1939 attempted to blow up Adolf Hitler. That’s not a spoiler by the way as its the very first scene of the film. ’13 Minutes’ refers to the window of time between Hitler leaving the venue and the bomb exploding. It’s the story of an ordinary person who could have changed the history of the world. After the failed attempt Elser is detained by the Gestapo and is interrogated and tortured in an attempt to discover his motivations.

This is just like my summers in Scotland. Apart from the sunshine. And the music. And the girls. And the smiles.

The great thing about 13 Minutes is that the audience has no idea who Georg Elser is and why he tried to kill Hitler. The movie cuts back and forth between Elser being questioned and scenes of his old life as a woodworker and musician building up a fascinating picture of who this man was. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel contrasts his idyllic country life in Germany with the brutality of the Nazi’s secret police brilliantly and portrays the slow corruption of his country subtly.

Fun fact: The Nazis loved Pictionary

There’s a lot to digest for a film that has such a simple plot. It throws up questions that are relevant today about terrorism, torture, and who decides what the greater good is. Christian Friedel is excellent as Georg Elser, at first an unassuming man but as we get to know him he displays his artistic side and his way with women. This was a person who had a vision of saving his county, not by replacing the regime with another ideology, but by removing its horrible leadership.

13 Minutes isn’t an easy watch but it is an important film if only just to get Elser’s name out there. In a way he was the ultimate hipster, he tried to kill Hitler before killing Hitler was cool, and his name should be remembered in his homeland. This movie is a good way to celebrate an important life.


Look out for my interview with 13 Minutes director Oliver Hirschbiegel about beer, Nazis, and football coming very soon!


Screenkicker Quality Index (SQI)







  1. Ooooh!!! I look forward to your interview w/ Oliver Hirschbiegel! He directed a few episodes of BORGIA, would you ask him about working with the cast in that, especially my crush Stanley Weber (he played Juan Borgia).


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