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Taking Sides (2001)

Not Rated | | Drama, Music, War | 7 March 2002 (Germany)
A tale based on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the controversial conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic whose tenure coincided with the controversial Nazi era. One of the most spectacular ... See full summary »


István Szabó


Ronald Harwood (play), Ronald Harwood (screenplay)

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9 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Harvey Keitel ... Major Steve Arnold
Stellan Skarsgård ... Dr. Wilhelm Furtwängler
Moritz Bleibtreu ... Lt. David Wills
Birgit Minichmayr ... Emmi Straube
Ulrich Tukur ... Helmut Alfred Rode, 2nd violinist
Oleg Tabakov ... Colonel Dymshitz
Hanns Zischler ... Rudolf Otto Werner, oboist
Armin Rohde ... Schlee, timpanist
R. Lee Ermey ... General Wallace
August Zirner ... Captain Ed Martin
Daniel White Daniel White ... Sergeant Adams
Thomas Thieme Thomas Thieme ... Reichsminister
Jed Curtis ... Colonel Green
Garrick Hagon ... Major Richards
Robin Renucci ... Captain Vernay


A tale based on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the controversial conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic whose tenure coincided with the controversial Nazi era. One of the most spectacular and renowned conductors of the 1930s, Furtwangler's reputation rivalled that of Toscanini's. After the war, he was investigated as part of the Allies' de-Nazification program. In the bombed-out Berlin of the immediate post-war period, the Allies slowly bring law and order, and justice, to bear in an occupied Germany. An American Major is given the Furtwangler file, and is told to find everything he can and to prosecute the man ruthlessly. Tough and hard-nosed, Major Steve Arnold sets out to investigate a world of which he knows nothing. Orchestra members vouch for Furtwangler's morality. He did what he could to protect Jewish players from his orchestra. To the Germans, deeply respectful of their musical heritage, Furtwangler was a demigod; to Major Arnold, he is just a lying, weak-willed Nazi. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Music | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »



France | UK | Germany | Austria


English | Russian | French | German

Release Date:

7 March 2002 (Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

A torto o a ragione See more »

Filming Locations:

Germany See more »


Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$22,051, 7 September 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$188,952, 14 March 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | DTS



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In one of the library scenes the boom mic and the arm holding it are clearly visible. See more »


Version of Za a Przeciw (1997) See more »


Music by Franz Schubert
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User Reviews

thought provoking story, delicate showmanship and excellent acting
27 July 2002 | by jozsefbiroSee all my reviews

Art vs. politics; the ethical dilemmas of talented artists when politics approaches them; this has always been István Szabó's favourite topic. Already the Oscar-winner Mephisto featured a talented actor selling his soul to the Nazis. This time the story is based on real-life events: while most of his colleagues fled the country, Wilhelm Furtwängler, this truly exceptional conductor stayed in Germany during the Nazi era and continued his career with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. His "collaboration" provoked strong accusations after the war.

The film is the story of the investigation by the American post-war authorities to decide whether the accusations of collaboration are valid. The film presents two ethical answers. The first one is stated by the American officer (played excellently by Harvey Keitel), who believes that Furtwängler is morally guilty, as he accepted a shining career from the Nazi's hand. The second answer is presented by Furtwängler himself who tries to defend himself by stating that in order to help (by "help" he both meant practical assistance - as he did save many Jews during the war - and a spiritual message - as he claimed that his music maintained the inner good in his nation's soul even in the time of Evil) he had to compromise with the Nazis, but he never really collaborated with them. The film itself (despite its title) does not take side, although it seems to sympathize with Furtwängler as an artist and generally presents the American officer as an ignorant and illiterate person. However, as the investigation proceeds, this aggressive and obnoxious person asks questions that are very hard to answer: is it acceptable to make such a compromise with a regime that kills 6 million Jews? Is it really so that Furtwängler made the compromise with the idea of helping people in need? Or rather, did he make it to advance his career?

The film has triggered exciting conversations with my friends who have differing opinions. I think these lengthy talks are the best proof that this is an excellent film and it has achieved its aim.

The story has several layers (I particularly liked the way differences of American and German cultures are presented), the characters are exciting and well played: if you like thought-provoking movies, go for this one!

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