In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb large ouygaatyh4jzithj6fi3uyf31ri

Wonder

You’ll shed a tear or two—especially if you’re a parent—and they’ll be totally earned.

Thumb mv5bztg3yteznjytzty2ns00yjnmltlhnjutzti2m2e5ndi4m2njxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzi3mdezmzm . v1 sy1000 cr0 0 675 1000 al

Mudbound

The film invites us to observe its characters, to hear their inner voices, to see what they see and to challenge our own preconceived notions…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Labyrinth of Lies

Labyrinth of Lies Movie Review
  |  

Some time in the first hour of “Labyrinth of Lies,” its lead charactera young, ambitious, late-'50s German prosecutor named Johann Radmann—begins to learn the scope of the crimes he’s decided to investigate in the hopes of breaking out of trying traffic violation cases. A former Nazi party member has been found to hold a teaching position nearby; this violates German law, although most of the bureaucrats overseeing this sort of thing have been happy to look the other way. It emerges that the school employee was a guard at a place called Auschwitz. Although the Nuremberg trials have already taken place, German reporting on the international court had apparently been sketchy; Radmann’s never heard of Auschwitz, and neither have many of his friends and colleagues.

Advertisement

Radmann soon finds out enough, and when doggedly pursues justice, never reflects on whether he might have bitten off more than he can chew. Neither does the movie itself, directed by Italian-born actor Giulio Ricciarelli, most of whose filmography is German-based. Ricciarelli co-wrote the script with Elisabeth Bartel, and while the movie’s lead character is what they call a composite, the movie is fact-based, concerning the first prosecutions of Nazi war criminals within Germany itself. There’s a compelling cinematic story here, perhaps, but Ricciarelli’s movie is too diffused and scattered and, especially in its first hour, too reliant on commonplaces. Radmann, played by the handsome but rather stiff Alexander Fehling, is an almost too-good-to-be-true fiction, the guy who stands in the hallway in an overhead shot while the rest of his colleagues are going to their offices, and then retrieves from a wastepaper basket a document about that Nazi “case” that none of his fellows want to touch with a ten-foot-pole. He collaborates with a fiery, feisty German journalist named Gnielka (André Szymanski) who introduces him to the world of postwar, pre-counterculture Euro bohemia, and these scenes have a certain charm. But crusaders, victims, and perpetrators are all painted with the standard contemporary brush; the bad guys have just enough banality of evil, the survivors have the clichéd mix of defeated slouch and stiff spines, and so on. It’s rather tiresome, with the bonus of making the viewer feel bad about finding it tiresome. Which means, finally, that it’s a betrayal of the reality it’s trying to portray, and one would be better of re-viewing “Shoah” again.

Radmann becomes obsessed with tracking down one particularly heinous Auschwitz denizen, one Dr. Josef Mengele. If you don’t know how that pursuit turns/turned out, well I won’t “spoil” it for you…but by the same token, you should be ashamed of yourself. As Radmann goes off on his own tangents, his boss, the Attorney General Bauer (Gert Voss) tries to straighten his focus, working an agenda of his own.

As the movie progresses, story themes emerge that are more actively interesting, although they’re not explored with any particular artistry. The deeper Radmann digs, the more Nazis he finds. Pursuing a line fleshed out in the controversial history account “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” Radmann discovers that no one is innocent, not even those he once most admired. This proves tough to him to handle. There’s a potentially searing psychological drama in this kind of stuff, and while Ricciarelli does use the material to underscore an object lesson on what the true nature of investigation and justice ought to be, he doesn’t take any meaningful artistic advantage of the material. So the movie winds up being—to put it kindly—mildly intellectually satisfying while entirely emotionally flat. In an interesting side note, an American Army officer who oversees wartime archives, and reluctantly (at first) assists Radmann in his research, is played by one Tim Williams, whom American viewers may recognize as the somewhat smarmy dude in the ads for travel-discount website Trivago. He’s sarcastic but not particularly creepy here and he speaks excellent German, for what it’s worth. 

Popular Blog Posts

Why I Stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

“Call of Duty” and “Wolfenstein” Redefine the Modern WWII Game

A review of two of the biggest games of 2017, a pair that use World War II in very different ways.

The Messy Women of "Thor: Ragnarok"

Hela and Valkyrie are unusual for Marvel and blockbuster movies in general. Both are messy, complicated figures not n...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus