Der Rote Baron (The Red Baron) (2008)
Director: Nikolai Müllerschön.
Starring: Tomás Koutník (Young Manfred von Richthofen), Tomás Ibl (Young Lothar von Richthofen), Albert Franc (Young Wolfram von Richthofen), Matthias Schweighöfer (Manfred von Richthofen), Maxim Mehmet (Friedrich Sternberg), Hanno Koffler (Lehmann), Til Schweiger (Werner Voss), Richard Krajco (Lanoe Hawker), Joseph Fiennes (Capt. Roy Brown), Steffen Schroeder (Bodenschatz), Lukás Príkazký (Kirmaier), Lena Headey (Käte Otersdorf), Iveta Jirícková (Redhead Whore).
Baron Manfred von Richtofen
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
A young boy named Manfred von Richthofen aims at a deer to shoot it, but he hears an airplane going overhead. He leaves the rifle behind and runs to his horse. He determines which way the plane is going and rushes to off to see it. He holds his arms out like he was flying himself.
There is a military funeral. The Red Baron along with other German planes flies over it and the people scatter. Instead of dropping a bomb, he drops a funeral wreath with a saying on the banner "our friend and enemy -- Capt. Clyde Walker". The planes return to their base. A lot of British planes comes after the Germans. The plane of the Red Baron gets hit a few times. He gets behind the offending airplane, and then shoot and kills the machine gunner. The plane starts spewing out black smoke.
When the guys get back to base they get chewed out by their boss. But the men who attended the funeral from above say that they knew this Walker fellow fand one of the guys is even related to him.
Someone says that Richthofen brought down a two-seater airplane. The guys go out to the crash site and Richthofen takes a piece of the plane as a souvenir. The pilot is still alive and the guys pull him out. A nurse is there to give him medical attention. The nurse says thank you to Richthofen for saving the pilot's life. Richthofen responds: "No, I shot him down."
Richthofen says that the pilot who led the attack against the German squad was Major Lanoe Hawker. Some of the other pilots say that Hawker is a dangerous fellow.
Richthofen really wants to get a medal as the result of his kills. His boss wants Richthofen to be a good soldier and follow orders. Richthofen asks him: "What if I shoot down Hawker?" His superior officer tells Richthofen: "Stay away from Hawker. You're no match for him." But Richthofen goes for Hawker and brings he and his plane down. Another pilot Werner Voss says: "So you finally did it. You bagged yourself a legend. That makes you a legend too." Richthofen looks at a photograph of the first of the aces. Werner says: "How desperate he was to find someone to fill the gap he left." Richthofen tells him that he will fill that gap. He will be the first of the aces.
Richthofen likes the nurse he saw the other day, whose name is Käte Otersdorf. He walks over to her and tells her who he is. She says she knows, because the English pilot told her who he is. She tells Richthofen that the name of the downed pilot is Captain Roy Brown, who told her Richthofen is a supreme professional and a tricky rascal." Käte doesn't seem to like Richthofen. He has too haughty of an air and thinks too much of himself and little of others. She leaves with the other nurses in an ambulance.
German High Command Western Front, Lille, France. January 1917. Richthofen wears a large medal on a large ribbon around his neck. The medal is Prussia's highest bravery award. A superior officer says that Richthofen has been chosen as a leader of all fighting men, a symbol of boldness and of German superiority. Richthofen will be the fighting men's new hero. He also tells Richthofen that "Gods don't die."
The Richthofen family has a big party for their hero son, but all the young men do is play with a plane on the property.
Richthofen's 11thFighter Squadron, Douai, France, January 1917. Richthofen tells the men to keep the sun at their backs. Best range for shooting is 50 meters. He also says that they are here to bring down planes, not pilots. He doesn't want his men shooting at the pilot of an airplane going down. He adds that if any of his pilots don't bring even one plane down in the next four weeks, he is fired.
German Field Hospital, St. Nicholas, Belgium, next day. Richthofen virtually runs into the hospital and then up the stairs to the room where one of his pilots lays dead. Käte comes up to say she is sorry about the loss of one of his pilots. Richthofen, however, wants to talk about Käte. He tells her she is a very beautiful woman. She just looks a him with her arms crossed over her chest and with a skeptical look on her face. He mentions his scarf and she says she will go get it. She comes back and gives it to Richthofen, but says it has blood stains still on it. She couldn't get them out.
Richthofen wants to know why she is so angry with him. Käte says she is scared of men like him, because she doesn't understand why he does what he does. He wants the scarf even though it has the blood of another man on it. Richthofen tries to explain that he's not bloodthirsty. Rather he's like a sportsman excited about playing the game, like a jousting tournament. She says she doesn't hate him, ". . . but I pity you." She leaves.
Richthofen wants his plane painted in such a way that it will be seen from far distances by the enemy. A fellow pilot, his friend Friedrich Sternberg, tells him that this will spoil the element of surprise, but Richthofen says: "I don't want them to be surprised. I want them to be scared."
The General comes out to talk with Richthofen. He says the Baron has become quite the celebrity with his name in the headlines. The Emperor himself knows his name after he learned of Richthofen's 29th kill. The General says he has a surprise for the Baron. It's his brother Lothar, who gets out of the General's car and approaches his brother saying that this was not his idea. The General says it will be great publicity with the Richthofen brothers flying together. Now the General wants to know why they keep coming up with new names for him, such as the Red Baron? Richthofen asks the General to follow him over to his airplane. It is a red plane, except for the black insignia.
Lothar gets mad when one of the pilots tells him that he has to know when to run away. He thinks this is cowardice. But his brother backs the other pilot, saying again that if you can't win, get out of there.
After a flight, Werner Voss tells Richthofen that he better keep an eye on his brother, because the fellow has a bad attitude. Richthofen asks where is his brother? Just then a damaged enemy plane is being chased by Lothar. The plane wants to land on the German airfield, but Lothar keeps shooting at the plane even as it tries to land successfully. In private the brothers exchange heated words. Lothar has the killer attitude, while Richthofen wants Lothar to be more sportsmanlike.
Werner hears the whole argument and tells Richthofen that he doesn't want to get killed because his brother has some big ambition to be a super pilot. In fact, Lothar could even be a danger to his own brother with that attitude of his.
Berlin, capital of the German Empire, May 1917. Richthofen sees some very beautiful women walking on the streets of Berlin. He and the General go to see the Kaiser. The Kaiser tells Richthofen that he is a real hero and pats him on the shoulder.
Käte finds postcards with Richthofen's face on them. She doesn't quite know what to think of them. She sees the hero get off the train and go over to a waiting automobile. As Richthofen is driven around even French POWs recognize him and ask him for his autograph.
British advance near Ypres, Belgium. The German airplanes go to the attack. Up in the sky the Red Baron goes after none other than Captain Roy Brown. Brown rushes into a thick cloud to get away from Richthofen.
Seven miles south, No Man's Land. Brown has already landed and now the Red Baron lands, but it's not a pretty landing. His nose digs into the field, while his tail sticks up in the air at a 45 degree angle. Richthofen gets out of the plane and goes over to Brown. Brown tells him that he just hit one of those damn gopher holes. It could have happened to him too. The Red Baron thanks him for his tact and says he came down to see the new plane Brown has. It's a brand new Sopwith. Brown introduces himself as Roy Brown of the Royal Canadian Flying Corps. He also takes the opportunity to thank Richthofen for saving his life. Richthofen says it was more the result of all the care given him by nurse Käte. Brown says she's a great gal.
Another big dog fight between the British and the German pilots. A German pilot goes down.
Brown and Richthofen part company. As Brown leaves he tells the Red Baron that after the war he should hook up with that Käte because she seems to have the hots for him. She couldn't stop talking about him for an entire week. The Red Baron gets a ride in the back of a truck. As it rolls along, Richthofen sees two German pilots by a downed German plane. He asks the driver to stop the truck. He jumps out and goes over to see the downed blonde-haired pilot. It's Friedrich Sternberg. He tells the three men standing around to get a doctor, but one of them says he needs a priest, not a doctor. Another pilot says Sternberg needs a rabbi. Richthofen holds the dead body and cries.
Richthofen's Fighter Wing I, Marcke, Belgium, 4 days later. Lothar tells his rather depressed brother that it's been days since he buried his pilot friend. Then he asks his brother why can't he enjoy the fact that he (Lothar) has been promoted? He yells at Manfred as if to say snap out of it and do your duty.
Roy Brown and the Red Baron meet up in the sky again. Brown gets behind him and starts firing his machine guns. Now the Red Baron lands on an agricultural field. Three children run over to the plane. They look inside the cockpit and find the Red Baron very bloody and very unconscious. But at least Richthofen does get to be in the hospital where Käte works.
A recuperating Richthofen complains to his replacement that he sends up single squadrons which are not effective against the Allies. The former superior of Richthofen says that Duran is only following orders. Richthofen says they hardly ever down Allied planes anymore and he is furious about it. He orders his replacement to stop taking the orders of his superior officer.
Käte takes a ride with Richthofen in the back of his limousine. He tells Käte this this squadron is the most successful one in the war. He sees Käte smile when a dog runs over near her and says he thought it would never happen. Alone with the Red Baron, pilot Werner suggests that Richthofen marry that Käte.
Käte cleans Richthofen's wound. He asks her if she would join him for dinner and she says yes.
German held city of Lille, France. Käte and Richthofen talk together in the restaurant. His date asks him to dance with her and he does so. On the way home, Richthofen says that without this hole in his head, he wouldn't be sitting by Käte now. This bothers Käte so she has the driver take them over to Hospital #76. She tells Richthofen that there are so many hospital that they all have to have numbers now. This hospital holds 500 men. Most of these men will die, but of those who don't, they will never walk again, see again, taste again, love again. She goes on to say that yes Richthofen has a hole in his head, but he is so much more fortunate than these men in the hospital. "It's not a game. This is the lowest we will ever get. It never gets darker." She now walks out of the hospital and Richthofen stays awhile to look at the poor patients.
Richthofen comes over to Käte's room. She is in her pajamas now. He asks her for something for his head. They kiss. They lay on the bed still kissing. All of a sudden the sounds of enemy planes is heard overhead followed by the sounds of bomb explosions. Richthofen tells Käte to go down to the cellar and get herself a gas mask. Käte asks if they fly at night and Richthofen says no. He leaves the room and walks out to the airfield. He is going up saying he doesn't want to be a sitting duck. Soon the Red Baron is knocking Allied planes out of the sky. In the morning the Red Baron lands. Werner takes Richthofen to Käte's room. His head is all bloody. His head wound probably opened up. Käte comes running in to check on her fellow.
Käte is ordered back to the hospital. She asks Richthofen to take her out to a restaurant again. She leaves.
German Fortress, Siegfried Position, Northern France. November 1917. The Richthofen brothers arrive to see the Kaiser again. The Kaiser thanks him for coming so quickly. He then asks him how is he doing? The Red Baron says he usually feels fine, sometime even irritably fine. The Kaiser asks how can he be irritably fine? Richthofen answers: "We kill a couple of men who either fall down in flames or feel just fine. I find this irritating." The Kaiser replies: "My soldiers do not kill people. They simply destroy the enemy." Richthofen says: "Well, the effect seems to be the same."
Richthofen's Fighter Wing I, Avesnes-Le-Sec, France. Richthofen tells his men that they have run out of fuel, ammunition, planes, pilots and lies. He asks his men to play it safe, to cut their losses. Don't engage in fights that they probably won't win.
Käte comes to visit Richthofen. She asks how about a dinner and a dance? So they have a dinner in a tent. Richthofen tells her: "They don't want me to fly anymore." But the Kaiser himself wants Richthofen to command the entire German air force. Käte says: "It's so good to have you down here -- safe." They dance.
Manfred goes to see Werner who is putting a Bentley motor into his airplane. He comments that his friend has always wanted to be the first of the aces, but now that they have offered it to him, he hesitates. Werner advises him to take the job, but Manfred asks Werner can he imagine himself not flying anymore? No, is the reply. After some more talk Manfred says he will take the job.
Fokker Manufactury, Schwerin, Germany. Herr Fokker complains that German pilots are replacing German engines in their aircraft with the Bentley motors off of downed English planes. Richthofen is furious and demands that he be given the report on this.
Lothar and Manfred are visiting their family. Their younger cousin Wolfram says he is going to join the two brothers in three weeks. He is sure that Germany will win the war and so is Lothar. Manfred, with his head bowed a bit, doesn't say anything.
German Lines, Western Front, France, February 1918. Richthofen visits the front and he gets a real taste of the dirty war in the trenches. The Allies are bombing the German trenches and the shells throw up dirt everywhere. Richthofen loses his footing and falls against a dead man, which upsets him a bit. The two soldiers with him push him up against a wall and cover his body as a shell lands not far from them. The soldiers push Richthofen into the command bunker where the general is happy to see the German ace. He tells a man to go get a photographer. This will make good propaganda for the German war effort.
Richthofen tells the army officers that he suggests they surrender. This makes the commanding officer, Erich von Ludendorff, very angry and he calls Richthofen an arrogant child. Richthofen says he was the victor in 63 aerial battles. He accomplished this by flying away if he faced a battle he couldn't win. He adds that the German cause is no better than that of the French, the British or the American. The commanding officers barks out the order: "Put this fool back in his airplane and give him a parachute. I can't afford to lose another idealistic hero." He leaves.
Richthofen has his assistant take down all photographs of himself. Lothar is puzzled by this move.
Richthofen speaks with his pilots about Operation Michael. The German army will attack on both sides of the town, a 70 km battle line. The goal of the pilots is to gain control of the skies in the area and keep control for the duration of the fight. There is, however, a big problem. Their planes are outnumbered four to one.
The offensive is soon to start. Groups of German soldiers start moving forward silently. The French and British are not paying attention because a big battle traditionally starts with an artillery barrage. Richthofen and his men get in their planes ready to take-off. The dog fights start very quickly. Allied balloons are downed. Käte is busily working in the hospital patching up the wounded. She sees in the newspaper the headline: "German Airforce Glorious; Triumphs over St. Quentin; Richthofen Downs Three!" A wounded soldier says that he saw the Red Baron. He was in his plane waving at the men on the ground.
The German High Command thanks the Red Baron and his pilots for their accomplishments. Richthofen says he wants to add his own thanks because the men showed him some marvelous flying. And suddenly Käte is there with a suitcase in her hand and a hat on her head. The two go horseback riding. Käte says he's flying again and she's mad that he didn't tell her. Richthofen replies: "I didn't want to scare you. I wanted you to be happy." She tells him: "They offered you safety -- your life." He tells her that from the sky he thought he could see everything. But Käte taught him that he saw nothing. "I was blind before I met you. You opened my eyes. . . . I can see now that we've turned the world into a damn slaughterhouse." And they use his face and name to propagandize for the war. He says he can't betray his pilots. He needs to be up there leading, helping his pilots.
April 17, 1918, Cappy. British airplanes are approaching the front lines. They are coming in from the northwest. Manfred tells Wolfram not to engage the enemy, but to stay close to Lothar. If an Allied plane comes after him, he is to fly immediately back to the airfield. Käte puts a white scarf around Manfred's neck and says he is a very brave man. The German planes take-off.
Allied Territory, Northern France, two weeks later. Captain Roy Brown gives Käte Manfred's white scarf. He is very sad to have to do this, but Käte comforts him by placing her hand against his right cheek as if to say it's all right. She leaves to go see Manfred's burial place. She tells Captain Brown that she came because she loved Manfred. And now before his grave she wonders if she ever told Manfred that she loved him. There is a funeral wreath there with a banner: "To our our friend and enemy Manfred Von Richthofen."
"Credited with 80 kills, he remains WWI's most successful fighter pilot. Killed in action of the 21st of April, 1918 at age 25. Buried in France by the Allies with full military honors."
No further information about Käte.
Captain Roy Brown. "Received the credit for shooting down Richthofen. Until today it is not proven who truly killed the 'Red Baron'. Captain Brown died in 1944 of a heart attack."
Lothar Von Richthofen. "Survived the war. Died only four years later, on the 4th of July, when a commercial plane he piloted crashed en route from Berlin to Hamburg due to engine failure."
Werner Voss. "Fighter ace with 48 victories and Richthofen's closest friend and competitor until he was shot down on the 23rd of September, 1917."
Kurt Wolff. "Downed 33 enemy aircraft before he was killed in action on the 15th of September, 1917. He was not wearing his lucky night cap."
"During WWI many Jewish pilots fought for the German Empire. Many of them were highly decorated fighter aces. They are represented by the fictitious character of Friedrich Sternberg."
Wolfram Von Richthofen. "Richthofen's young cousin fought the war in the air until Germany surrendered to the Allies in November, 1918."
Good movie. This version has a nice love story in it between Lena Headey and Tomás Koutník. And this version brings out that Richthofen wanted Germany to surrender much earlier that the nation actually did surrender. He was upset at how they used his name, photos and other images for propaganda to promote the war effort. He was only 25 when he was killed (some sources say he was shot by an infantryman on the ground).
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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