Russ over at Private Buffoon had an interesting post on the banality of evil. It brought to mind the obscure movie, Shining Through. In the movie Linda Voss played by Melanie Griffith goes into Germany to be a nanny for a German officer Franz-Otto Deitrich played (pre Shindler's List) Liam Neeson to steal the plans for V2 rockets.
On the scale of great movies about WWII it's not very high. In fact today you can order the DVD of the movie for a whole sixty-two cents on the web site where I found the picture.
What is striking about this movie, and maybe why it was so panned by the critics and rejected by the viewing public is Neesom's performance as a Nazi. He's so human. He goes to work, comes home and spends time with his children just like any other family man. In one scene Voss has taken the children into Berlin where they get caught in bombing raid. When she gets them home the children run up to Deitrich where he embraces them and they tell him about what happened. You can see the worry and anguish on his face at what could have happened.
Reading Russ's post on Banality of Evil brought to mind Neesom's German officer, and how he defied all the other movies that showed Nazi's as monsters. Evil most of the time looks normal.
Linda Voss even starts having feelings for Deitrich (he's a widower).
Another part of the plot is the main reason she went in to steal the plans was to try and get family (she's part Jew) out of Berlin. She has an OSS contact Margarete Von Eberstein (Joeley Richardson) who becomes her friend talking about make-up and movie stars who turns out to be Gestapo. Voss's family is sent to the death camps by this woman and once Voss steals the secret plans and is trying to escape provides the suspense at the end of the movie. Even Eberstein comes across as just someone doing their job, not the usual stereotype you see in almost all other WWII or Indian Jones movies.
It's so easy to view whoever we're at war with as monsters, evil, vile killers; when the reality is that they don't view themselves like this and view us the same way. We always have to dehumanize the enemy otherwise we'd find it too hard to kill them. Maybe that's what's really evil.