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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

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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?


When Major Arnold is listening to the recording of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the record finishes the first movement and carries straight on to the second. Long playing albums, which ran at 33 1/3 rpm, were introduced in 1948, but the record shown is a 78 rpm one. The performance of the 5th Symphony would have been on a set of five 78 rpm records, one movement each, split over the two sides. It should not be possible for the second movement to start without the record being changed. See more »


Version of Za a Przeciw (1997) See more »


Music by Anton Bruckner
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User Reviews

This is the most rewarding exploration of guilt and innocence since Dead Man Walking, and provides a feast of provocative food for the mind, interlaced with stunning musical interludes.
30 November 2002 | by marclarSee all my reviews

I loved everything about this movie. I forgave it's visual staginess including the unreal scenes of bombed-out Berlin seen through the windows, because what was taking place in the foreground was so intensely engaging and gripping. Based on a true story, and set at the time of the Nuremberg trials following WWII, Taking Sides is the tale of US Denazification investigator, Major Steve Arnold's (Harvey Keitel) mission to establish the guilty association of renowned Berlin conductor, Dr. Wilhelm Furtwangler (Stellan Skarsgard) with the Nazis. When other artists left Germany under the Third Reich, Furtwangler stayed on to become Hitler's favourite, conducting his orchestra at the Nurenberg Rally and at Hitler's birthday. Yet he had become a hero to the German people, because of his famous refusal to give the Nazi salute to Hitler himself after the birthday performance; as well as his reputation for assisting the escape from Germany of several Jewish musicians. In a relentless confrontation with Furtwangler and his defenders, Arnold casts an unblinking light on the common human motives - fear and personal ambition - behind Furtwangler's 'heroism' - and behind the inaction of the innumerable German people who claimed ignorance as a justification for their inaction in the face of Nazi evil. Everyone in Germany, it seems, hid Jews and assisted their escape. But what were they hiding Jews from, what was it they were protecting Jews from, asks Arnold, if they did not know what was happening? It is a universal question that confronts each of us, as viewers, for our every failure to take action in the face of injustice. Yet Furtwangler's defence - that art must be above politics, and that his music was was needed by his people to remind them of the sublime possibilities of the human spirit - finds passionately sympathetic support from Arnold's own young assistants, Jewish American, Lt. David Wills (Moritz Bleibtreu), and Emmi Graube (Birgit Minichmayr). How can an outsider possibly know what it was like? asks Emmi of Arnold. What right do you have to judge who was right and who was wrong? A complex dilemma with a complex resolution, an array of rich characterisations and splendid musical interludes combine to make this one of the most deeply rewarding cinematic experiences possible to the idea-famished mind.

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