Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa
It's been two years since Edward Elric sacrificed himself to save his little brother. Now stranded in our world, in 1923 Munich Germany, Edward has been studying the science of rocketry alongside Alfons Heiderich, the alternate version of his brother, in hopes of finding a way back home. Meanwhile in the alchemy world Al has been studying under Izumi and becoming a powerful alchemist in his own right. He is is constantly searching for a means to reunite with Ed. After saving a psychic gypsy girl Edward gets caught up in a plot by the Thule society and early Nazi party, one that could mean the destruction of both worlds.
A continuation of the wonderful TV series, Shamballa mixes fact with fiction, alchemy with science, and fantasy with history, creating a fitting end for the epic anime that also leaves plenty of room for more.
What's more there is so much more depth to the movie amazingly then first meets the eye. In order to experience the movie to it's whole you must investigate it's background. The purpose of this paper is to begin to do so.
The Thule society is featured prominently in the movie. They wish to harness the alchemic power of Ed's world to use in their own wars, starting with the over throwing of the current government, an event that is known to history as the failed Munich putsch.
Founded in 1918, the Thule society was a secret occultist group obsessed with furthering the "Aryan" race. They sought contact with supernatural beings residing beneath the earth in a place known as Shamballa or Thule. They hoped to contact these beings through arcane rituals. This provides an interesting parallel in the movie. They believe Ed's world to be Shamballa, so, in their heads, Edward and Hoenhiem would be some of the "supernatural" beings. The supposed power they hoped to gain would be the power of alchemy and the rituals would be the alchemy used to open the gate. The Thule society were also the subject of many interesting rumors, such as the creation of space craft and the possession of secret weapons. (experience fest) Starting to sound from earlier?
Shamballa also features a number or historic or historically based characters. Chief among these are the German silent film director Fritz Lang and the pro-nazi Dietlinde Eckhart
The Jewish film director Fritz Lang meets Ed after the later mistakes him for the deceased homunculi Furor King Bradly
"Why! Why is a homunculi here!"
Born in Austria, Lang was one of the world's greatest film directors. (Lang) A master of the silent screen his movies at the time of the movie included Halbblut, (Half caste) Die Spinnen, (The Spiders) Der mude Tod, (Destiny) and Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Dr Mabuse. The Gambler)
"Dr Mabuse The Gambler I understand that's a film you made"
His second wife Thea von Harbou became a fanatical believer of Adolf Hitler, A fact which caused some tension. When he left Germany in 1933, after being offered a prominent position in the Nazi film industry (Lang) his wife stayed behind and started working for the Nazis.
Eckhart, as depicted in the movie, is probably a merging of two Thule society members: Dietrich Eckart who was Hitler's tutor in public speaking and Countess Heila von Westarp who functioned as a sort of secretary (Experience Fest)
Through out the movie Alfonse Heiderich suffers from an unnamed disease. While it first appears a to be a minor issue, manifesting itself in the form of a recurring cough, it is soon revealed to have a more sinister nature causing him to cough up blood. Alfons knows he is dying and this greatly effects many of his actions and decisions throughout the movie.
"We're real Ed. Not just a part of your dreams like you thought. I care and I make mistakes. I might not live much longer but I'll still be here. Just don't forget me."
"It's just a little cold"
Pulmonary tuberculosis often starts showing itself in the form a persistent cough and is frequentl dismissed by a cold that won't go away. However by the time coughing starts the disease is usually already fairly well established. As the disease progresses the patient starts coughing up blood, first in little, then large amounts. Eventually the damage to the lungs prohibits breathing and the victim dies. (TB1, P 47-9) At the time Shamballa takes place there was no real cure for the disease and its victims usually died. (Dr. C. Krohn) However, that didn't stop them from trying. From the years 1910-1940 (TB2, P 21) patients were usually sent off, sometimes against their will, (Dr. C. Krohn) to "sanitariums", basically mountain nature centers run by doctors, where, according to beliefs at the time, they could be cured by clean mountain air.(TB2, P 21) In reality the only useful thing the sanitariums did was contain the illness. However even this was not highly effective because, due possibly to the sanitariums many rules and regulations, many victims hid their disease from public view. In addition in places were the economy was down and the government wasn't very strong (like Weimar Germany) sanitariums were not very high on the priority list. (Dr. C. Krohn)
"The truth is...I'm running out of time. You say this world isn't yours well it is mine and I want to leave proof that I lived in it!"
Assuming that the disease killing Alfons was indeed tuberculosis many of his actions suddenly become clearer. The fact he kept hidden for one. We already know his insistence on continuing his work and apparent obsession with it was due to his wish to leave something of himself behind so his memory wouldn't fade into oblivion, but we can now get further inside his head
He didn't want to find a sanitarium and die meaninglessly. He wanted his death to have meaning. Seeing what his rockets are being used for he doesn't want his work to be used to enable such evil. After seeing his friend get shot he is absolutely horrified. For him it seems as if the world is falling down. He goes to find his dead friend's body and finds him alive but unconscious from the fall, the bullet having hit his prosthetic arm. Alfons makes a split second decision and drags Ed to the last remaining rocket, a one-manner that got left behind probably due to it's size. When Edward wakes up Alfons comments on his incredible luck and delivers his final heart moving last words. He runs over to the switchboard and sends him off through the gate and back to his home. An angry Thule soldier shoots Alfons in the back and thus he falls looking up with a smile on his face, watching the culmination of his lifelong dream of sending people to other worlds, come true.
Shamballa is not a historical fiction movie, nor is it meant to be. Fullmetal is at its root a scifi/fantasy story, however in the places where it can Shamballa is as historically accurate as possible. You can tell that it's makers did a great deal of research to make the setting and historical figures as accurate as possible. The only case where they deviate from this is with Eckhart who they turn into a girl and change the role of. However they address the moral themes of the time very well, use realistic dialogue, and present the setting in a highly accurate light while still remaining true to the central spirit of Fullmetal. Like the Series, this movie is an epic masterpiece