In 1940, a working-class couple in World War II-era Berlin, Otto and Anna Quangel, decide to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, after receiving the news of the death of their only son. An additional impetus for their growing resistance to the regime is the fate of an old Jewish woman living in their building. Though the official deportation of Jews to death camps had not yet started, Jews have no recourse to any legal protection. Ruthless Nazis — and "non-ideological" common criminals — use the opportunity to loot the old woman's apartment with impunity. Despite the efforts of the Quangels and other kind neighbors to help her, the persecution ends with the old woman jumping to her death from a high floor window.
Impelled by all this, the couple starts writing postcards to urge people to stand against Hitler and the Nazis and protest against them, and furtively placing the cards in public places. His first card reads: ""Mothers, Hitler Will Kill Your Son Too". At first, Otto wants to do it all by himself, warning Anna, "They hang women, too!" She, however, insists on taking part in this dangerous activity. While in the beginning of the film the couple's marriage seems to have dried up, being unable to console each other for the loss of their son, their shared risk and commitment brings them back closer, in effect falling in love with each other all over again.
Escherich is the police inspector charged with finding the source of the postcards. He is a professional police detective, acting out of professional pride rather than Nazi ideology. During three years of painstakingly gathering clues about the "Hobgoblin" (as he calls the mysterious writer of the postcards) he develops an increasing respect for this elusive unknown opponent. With the lack of progress in his investigation, Escherich is beaten up by the obviously impatient S.S. senior officer, and is further forced thereby, to execute extrajudicially, a man whom he is certain has no connection with these subversive postcards.
Finally, Otto Quangel is arrested due to the accidental fall of postcards out of his pocket, while at work. He remains though stoic about the certain death sentence awaiting him, and only tries in vain to take all the blame on himself and save Anna. After the couple has been executed, Escherich is alone in his office. He gathers up all of the couple's hundreds of subversive postcards, scatters them out of the open window of the police headquarters, and shoots himself. The film ends with the image of the postcards swirling in the wind, falling down on the Berlin streets and picked up by passers by — giving the film's protagonists a posthumous moral victory.Emma Thompson as Anna Quangel
Brendan Gleeson as Otto Quangel
Daniel Brühl as Escherich
Mikael Persbrandt as SS Officer Prall
Katharina Schüttler as Claire Gehrich
Louis Hofmann as Hans Quangel
Godehard Giese as Colonel Krüger
Jacob Matschenz as Dietrich Necker
Lars Rudolph as Enno Kluge
Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone was published posthumously in German in 1947 and was praised by Primo Levi as "the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis". It was previously adapted as Alfred Vohrer's Everyone Dies Alone in 1975, along with West and East German made-for-television dramas in 1962 and 1970. Marco Pacchioni and Vincent Pérez bought the rights to the novel in 2007. Upon publication of its English translation in 2009, it became a "surprise bestseller" in both the US and UK.
On 14 May 2014 it was announced that Pérez would direct the film based on an adaptation he cowrote with Achim von Borries. Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance, and Daniel Brühl were named for the principal roles. It is being produced by X-Filme's Stefan Arndt and Uwe Schott (German rights), Master Movies' Marco Pacchioni (French rights) and Filmwave's Christian Grass and Paul Trijbits, and James Schamus.
On 26 March 2015 Rylance was replaced by Brendan Gleeson. Other crew members are cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos, and editor François Gédigier. Alison Thompson is set to handle most foreign sales for the film through her Sunray Films, although Pathé will release it in French-speaking areas.
Principal photography on the film began on 27 March 2015 in Berlin. It was also shot in Cologne and Görlitz.
The film adaptation Alone in Berlin was first screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2016. The film starred Emma Thompson as Anna Quangel, Brendan Gleeson as Otto Quangel, and Daniel Brühl as Escherich. The film received a score of 52 on the critical aggregator website Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews".