Baron Manfred von Richthofen is the most feared and celebrated pilot of the German air force in World War I. To him and his companions, air combats are events of sporty nature, technical challenge and honorable acting, ignoring the terrible extent of war. But after falling in love with the nurse Käte, Manfred realizes he is only used for propaganda means. Caught between his disgust for the war, and the responsibility for his fighter wing, von Richthofen sets out to fly again.Written by
Val Kilmer was initially considered for the title role, even though during filming he would have been in his late 40s, at least 20 years older than the real Manfred von Richthofen ever lived to be. See more »
In the movie "the Red Baron", Werner Voss mentions switching out the Oberursel Rotary engine on his Fokker Dr 1 with a captured British Gnome Monosoupape. In reality, there would have been no benefit to doing this, as the Oberursel was a direct copy of the Gnome, and had exactly the same performance. It is later suggested that this modification lead up to Voss' fatal crash, but Voss did not die in a crash- he was shot down by a squadron of Se5a's commanded by British ace James McCudden. See more »
"The Red Baron" represents the English nickname given to Manfred von Richthofen (Matthias Schweighöfer), the handsome aristocratic ace German fighter pilot of World War I who went on to become a legend in his country and abroad. As a fighter pilot experienced in dog fighting, von Richthofen sees war in terms of duels fought between individuals governed by the rules of gentlemanly sport. Enemy pilots become friends, and the object of aerial combat becomes forcing an enemy plane to land rather than killing its pilot. When his brother and fellow aviator causes a French pilot to crash and burn in front of his eyes, von Richthofen expresses dismay.
While stationed in France, he befriends a Canadian pilot after shooting him down named Captain Roy Brown (Joseph Fiennes), and begins a romance with a German nurse named Käte Otersdorf (Lena Headey). It is Otersdorf who introduces von Richthofen into the harsh realities of war when she takes him to a hospital ward filled with men who are horribly disfigured. Otersdorf comes off as an early 20th century pacifist; she treats soldiers regardless of their nationality and cannot understand why anyone would want to be a soldier. As a result of her feelings about war, she is initially put off by von Richthofen, but it should come as no surprise that she eventually succumbs to his charms.
Inspite of his relationship with Otersdorf, von Richthofen never loses his enthusiasm for combat, even taking to the air after suffering a serious injury. Von Richthofen's reasons for wanting to fly go beyond the natural desire of any pilot for risk and the sensation of souring like a hawk. He wants to be with his men, and he knows that the German fighting force looks to him for inspiration.
As for the presentation of Richthofen, my initial objection that Schweighofer looked too young to play an experienced pilot turned out to be unfounded once I researched the character. However, the fact that I later discovered that although Oterdorf was a real character, von Richthofen did not have a romance with her, made me feel that the filmmakers were playing down to the audience by playing the romance card unnecessarily. In addition, I was distracted by the obvious age difference between the two characters and their lack of chemistry. I found Von Richthofen, as portrayed brilliantly by Schwighofer, and his squadron interesting enough in and of themselves without Oterdorf.
Besides the casting, there were positive elements in the presentation of the film. The aerial combat was beautifully shot, and the score adequate. I recommend that you at least rent this film.
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