“Death is nothing if the legacy lives on.”
Ben Parker’s Burial builds a tale around the ambiguity about the death of Hitler in 1945. Some have used that idea to imagine his escape to Argentina. This film takes a different perspective. It becomes a battle for the propaganda value of Hitler’s remains in the days following his death.
In the waning days of World War II, a young Soviet intelligence officer, Brana Vasilyeva (Charlotte Vega), is tasked with a very secret mission with orders from Joseph Stalin himself. She and a small cohort of Soviet soldiers are to bring a crate back to Russia. She is one of only three people that know what is in that crate. Each night when they stop, they bury the crate, so that even if they are found, the crate will not be.
A few days into the journey, while in Poland, they are attacked by pro-Nazi partisans, known as “Werewolves”. The surviving soldiers take refuge in a farmhouse. It is then that it is revealed that the crate contains the rotting body of Hitler, being taken to Stalin so that he can look his enemy in the eye. It would also be a great coup for the Soviet leader to be have such a trophy of the war.
As the werewolves keep at the attack, with the support of a German doctor whose job it is to do an autopsy to disprove that this is the Fuhrer’s body, the band of soldiers are eliminated in battle. In the end, only Vasilyeva escapes.
For the most part this is a pretty run-of-the-mill war movie. There is a lack of discipline among the soldiers that leads to some of their troubles. There is a sense of doom as the soldiers must deal with not only the enemy, but their distrust of each other and their mission.
What meaning the film has is built into the prologue and epilogue that take place in London many years later. Vasilyeva, now living under the name Anna Marshall (Harriet Walter) is confronted in her apartment by a neo-Nazi intruder who has tracked her down because he has heard rumors that she helped cover up the fact that Hitler survived the war. For that intruder, the legacy of Hitler not being a loser was paramount. We continue to live in a world where such legacies carry on, even when all evidence shows otherwise. Vasilyeva summed up the power of that when she defended their mission: “Men like that don’t die. They fester in the ground infesting everything.” Often even after death, ideas can continue to infest our world with evil.
Burial is in select theaters and available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of IFC Midnight