The private recollections, documents, journals and photographs of one of the most brutal mass murderers in world history make for perversely compulsive viewing in Vanessa Lapa’s engrossing documentary about SS commander Heinrich Himmler. The Decent One is made up of archive material found at his family home by soldiers of the 88th US Infantry Division. It traces his life from nationalistic outsider to the man who developed the strategies that led to the murder of millions of Jews, homosexuals, communists and Romany people.

As a biographical sketch of such a complex individual the film is darkly gripping. He appeared to be a cold but caring husband and father, romancing his wife Margarete, caring for his daughter Gudrun, and tender towards his mistress Hedwig. He even sent Christmas gifts to his family as he visited extermination camps.

The assembly of footage and the voiceovers make for gripping viewing, and while the audience is asked to read between the lines to unearth the darkness of Himmler’s real personality there are also moments of real power.

Mark Adams
Screen International


Please note that the festival is over 18s only