The movie “Six Minutes Before Midnight”: a historical ploy in a commercial format

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The points of narrative writings about World War II, the focal points and the building of characters, their depth and psychological aspects differ in each new proposal in directing a new movie about this frightening era. He faces this challenge in telling a story that brings a different vision to one of the worst historical events of the twentieth century.
“Six Minutes to Midnight” is the third feature film by Andy Goddard, a director with extensive experience directing TV series. Andy Goddard (born in 1968) is a British director and screenwriter, best known for writing and directing his first feature film, “Set Fire to the Stars” (2014) and directing and co-producing his second movie, Kind of Murder (2016). An upcoming director with the background of the TV series he directed heavily (20 series). His third film “Six Minutes Before Midnight” or another titled “Girls of the Reich” (production 99/20/20 minutes / UK) presents a mixture of historical and espionage films. A film that tries to delve into the uncomfortable fraternal relations that exist between the United Kingdom and Germany, whose most tumultuous, setback and tragic moments in World War II lived through.

Bargaining chip

Directed by Andy Goddard, the film focuses on the beautiful engineering architecture of the Augusta Victoria School for Girls, located in the south of England. This is precisely where the Nazi leadership sends its daughters to speak English and prepare them to be truly German. Principal (Judi Dench) and her head teacher (Carla Goree) make sure that this is the case, although there is a vacancy that Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard) will fill at the last minute.
In order to disrupt the narrative structure, we discover the body of a teacher on the beach, and a series of events occur that will make the girls a bargaining chip in the war. We have to remember that it is 1939, and that a war is in the making. The daughters of high-ranking Nazi leaders are a very valuable trophy in the hand of England. What no one expects is that everything turns into a cycle of espionage, persecution, and not knowing which side is standing next to the other. The film has sharp ups and downs, and questionable situations in its script, but maintains interest until the end, as long as the audience follows the film to the end in the suspense game.

Historical school hoax

The school, located in the south of England, is the ideal place to develop an innovative plot at the narrative level, and to build deep characters that bond to the action. A movie in which the daughters of the Reich’s top chancellors are gathered together and used as a bargaining chip for a country that sees war approaching its borders. Reich girls are overrun when the boundaries of the Augusta Victoria School are exceeded in its pedagogical and educational boundaries, and they turn into a locker of espionage and absolutely unnecessary pursuits, and the rhythm of the film is completely upended. The school does not carry narrative shadows that reflect on the psychological aspects of the film’s characters, as if the place is just a marginal visit to a museum on the way.
Among the walls of this school many interesting ideas are created: building intolerant attitudes, rejecting racism and bullying in the school. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is the remarkable act of Judi Dench’s character satisfaction in the face of the fascist acts taking place at her school, actions that she does not seem to share at all. This excessive tolerance is reflected when Miss Rochelle (Judi Dench) stares into Thomas Miller’s eyes through the small space the door leaves ajar.
There is another important issue that the film does not delve into the dark sides of the characters, and leaves blank white spots here and there .. Only in two specific moments we ask ourselves: Is it really good for girls to stay in England? In the rest of the time, the Reichstagas impose upon us shamelessly, how badly the condition of the Germans is, with no interest in developing the intentions of the English side and without the thinking of the rest of the students.

The chase game

The second half of “Reich Girls” can be summed up in the reckless journey of Eddie Isard’s character to escape the police. Many writers resort to the game of stalking, which is a popular game in narrative writing, to get out of the receding place, or when the place narrows with its characters. At this point, the mysterious tone and narrative structure in the film turns into an attempt to escape from the historical truth, and in a narrative shift that highlights the flamboyant commercial tendency of the film, mixed with historical spices and an incomplete spy story. It is reasonable to say that the potential of Reichspring girls is still confined to the Augusta Victoria School, and will never leave it again. The only purpose of the persecution and stalking seems to be to prolong the film’s length. This time extension was not appropriate for the narrative stability and the rhythm of events in this way. Taking this decision was not feasible to produce a film that seems to carry a commercial veil, without historical depth, and without depth in character building .. Watching Eddie Izard running for a long time becomes terribly unreasonable in the eyes of the spectator, who can only To wonder where to get this stamina as an Olympic champion.

Technical construction

If I had to talk about a positive aspect in “Reich Girls”, then the confrontations and gestures would not be exaggerated, when it comes to the goal and its results. Nor are the interpretations of actress Judi Dench and the young Tiegan Marie, who deepen the story. It is a sad thing not to exploit its long representations and its long history of diving into the dark sides of the film characters .. Photography is wonderful, as its good artistic design depends on the scenes and photographic shots in wonderful pictures of the school and of the British coasts that relieve the eye from the curse of the chase. The scenes are perfectly arranged to highlight the heroes’ presence and the environment the school belongs to. However, it is difficult not to notice that the film is surrounded by a televised aura due to the background of the director coming from the arena of TV series.

The film has sharp ups and downs, and questionable situations in its script, but maintains interest until the end, as long as the audience follows the film to the end in the suspense game.

The film between history and espionage

What appears at the beginning is very clear fades before the end, without director Andy Goddard intending to clarify the mission, which is to anticipate the moves of the rival country, or to protect some students who will become part of the other side? What exactly does the director want? This question, director Goddard, does not know how to solve, which confused the story, rather than the film being an attractive historical turn on the conflicting relations between the two countries, just before the World War, as is the case with the films “Land of Mines” and “Under the Sand.” A spy movie that transforms its historical context into a mere facade that has no trace. It is also not suitable as a personal story as there is no character in the film who managed to excel on the emotional level, which also distances the film from titles such as “A Bag of Marble” or “The Year We Stopped When it is about playing »to compare them.
The film ends up playing along the lines of films such as “The Song of Forgotten Names” or “The Tobacco Seller” or “The Man with the Iron Heart”, which are films that shine with the magnitude of their production and commercial marketing, with a wonderful artistic design, with a strong performance thanks to the staff of professional actors, but they fail In presenting a different story of events reproduced by the Seventh Art on countless occasions, about the historical event itself, it seems like a missed opportunity when it comes to addressing the historical relationship between the United Kingdom and Germany.
The film seeks to show the attempts to restore those historical ties that existed between the two countries, for this reason the film presents on the big screen the history of the women’s establishment, which in the early 1930s of the last century educated the wealthy teenage girls coming from Germany in the southeast of England. However, what could have been a drama about the contradictions experienced by young German women, daughters of Nazi politicians and rulers, educated in a democratic system and far from the influence of the Third Reich, ends up becoming a commercial spy movie, waiting for what happens to girls, Depending on whether Germany and the United Kingdom declare war.
In the end, the film “Rich Girls” from Germany, or “Reich Girls”, is not based on real events, but rather exploits this historical fact to build a marketing artistic product only. The authenticity of the historical facts is questionable, since the only reliable thing is the location of the school in general.
Director Goddard builds a fairy tale almost empty of any historical dimension, and what about the remaining six minutes at midnight .. Nothing but the remnants of a film that dissipates between formalities of history, espionage and chases. It is clear that we cannot ask for more from a director who is pursuing a commercial film, without looking at writing a script with good cohesion. On the other hand, the film can be seen perfectly as a bad drink. It can even be an entertaining and entertaining movie if we do not take it seriously and open doors to cinematic criticism.

Writer and film critic from Morocco



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