My Honor was Loyalty – Leibstandarte is an Italian low budget, independent production by Alessandro Pepe, which aims to depict the experience of World War II from the point of view of German Soldiers (one soldier in particular) and to answer a delicate question: was it really as simple as good against evil? Were German soldiers all-bad and Allied soldiers all-good?
Watching this movie, you have to put things into context – this is an independent work, with a very low budget, and it’s Alessandro Pepe’s first feature length film. Expectations (and judgement) should be set accordingly.
The film focuses on Untersharführer Ludwig Herckel, a patriotic member of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. Most of the movie involves fighting scenes, and the story itself revolves around Herckel’s feelings and the camaraderie between soldiers, both on the Eastern and Western fronts. As he sees the tides of the war turning, and learns about certain crimes being committed, Herckel (initially devoted to the National Socialist cause) begins to question himself and the reasons for which he is fighting. Does he find his answers? What are those answers?
The production values are nothing to shout about, as you could expect for a low budget production like this. The camera is often shaky in fighting scenes (maybe this was intentional, for realism), and the acting seems mediocre – this is accentuated by the fact that Italian actors seem to have their voices dubbed into German. Special effects can be “not great” and you can clearly see this isn’t some Hollywood level production. I also chuckled when, at the start of the movie, director Alessandro Pepe quoted himself like he was supposed to be some ancient philosopher. That suggested amateurism to me and it was not fair to the film, which is otherwise quite professionally made. All in all, for the budget, it’s actually remarkable what they were able to pull off. The cinematographic shortcomings are easily to gloss over and shouldn’t affect your viewing experience unless that is something you really value.
For what it is, I thought this movie was quite excellent and better than many big budget ones. It was a fair depiction of the events in World War 2, it had a fitting ending and I think you should watch it – at the very least because it’s something different. It asks important questions that people do not want to hear, and it offers a different perspective which is sorely lacking in WW2 cinematography. I was surprised to find it on Netflix – it’s not something you would expect to find there, given that portraying things from a German perspective is controversial to say the least. Then again, they announced it won’t be available for much longer.
Ignore the bad reviews. The vast majority of them are based solely on the fact that German soldiers are portrayed as humane. Better see and decide for yourself.