In the summer of 1944, Hitler gives orders that the French capital should not fall into enemy hands, or if it does, then ‘only as a field of rubble’. The person assigned to carry out this barbaric act is Wehrmacht commander of Greater Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, who already has mines planted on the Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre and Notre Dame and on the bridges over the Seine. Nothing should be left as a reminder of the city’s former glory. However, at dawn on 25 August, Swedish Consul General Raoul Nordling steals into German headquarters through a secret underground tunnel and tries to persuade Choltitz to abandon his plan ...
Based on the eponymous play by Cyril Gély, Volker Schlöndorff has created a psychologically elaborate battle of words between two highly contrasting characters. While Choltitz entrenches himself behind his duty to obey unquestioningly all military orders, Nordling tries everything he can to appeal to reason and humanity and prevent the senseless destruction of Paris. The film moves back and forth between reality and fiction – for the encounter it portrays between these two men never actually took place in this way.
Source: 64. Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin (Catalogue)