The Miracle of Bern (2003) - Das Wunder von Bern

From Russian enslavement to ‘The Miracle of Bern’ (2003)



Das Wunder von Bern is one of the top soccer movie money-makers. It portrays the WC 1954 final, known as the Miracle of Bern, from the standpoint of a struggling mining town post-Hitler. A German POW returns from 11 years in the Soviet Gulag to a young son he didn’t know existed, and to a family that has grown up in his absence. The young boy is a talisman for local striker Helmut Rahn, who is called up to play for Germany but has trouble getting playing time.

A very well-executed movie, Writer-Director Sönke Wortmann played at the professional level himself, so to recreate football scenes, he recruited actors who were good players. (The creators of  The Damned United did the same.) Soccer, hope, progress, rebirth, and getting to the game all come together in an ending similar to the later film Will.

Dubbing may have reduced deserved empathy in the story

The only weakness to the story is that it has quite a few plot lines among many characters. As a result, it was easy to be interested in their stories, but not so easy to empathize with them, even when the father relates the terror of working in the Russian mines. German POWs were virtually enslaved at the end of WW2.

The lack of emotional conveyance may have been due to the English dubbing. In the version I watched, the English sub-titles were displayed, and they used much simpler language than the dubbed actors, creating some distracting cognitive dissonance.

I enjoyed this opportunity to learn the social issues for Germans returning from long years in the Russian labor camps, and the efforts for a nation recovering from a devastating war.

German managers always weather criticism

It was also interesting to watch the German team and its manager Sepp Herberger weather the criticisms from the press as the team was bludgeoned in early games. Herberger is known for responding to difficult questions about the team with a pat answer he supposedly picks up from a cleaning woman:

“The ball is round and the game lasts for 90 minutes”.

– German coach Sepp Herberger

Such an attitude may have been prescient for Wortmann, who subsequently followed Jurgen Klinsmann and his DFB-Elf (aka DFB Eleven or Die Mannschaft) during their 2006 campaign and produced a popular German documentary, Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen.

An interesting fact is that the actors playing father and son are such in real life.

9 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 9