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Thursday, April 27, 2017

DER STAAT GEGEN FRITZ BAUER / THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER (2015)

Nearing the end of his career, German Attorney General Fritz Bauer finally gets a strong lead on the whereabouts of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, but little support in following it. It’s the late ‘50s and Bauer, the rare case of a returned German Jew in the Adenauer government, is both surrounded and stymied by the ex-Nazi officers, many former SS, he’s forced to work with. The last thing they’d want is for Herr Eichmann to go on trial in Germany, spilling long-buried war stories. So Bauer tries an end run, working his operation thru Israeli Mossad agents. Effective, but illegal; and technically traitorous. It’s fascinating true stuff, and writer/director Lars Kraume finds a good new angle with a gay blackmail subplot involving Bauer’s past and, in the present, an assistant on the ‘down-low.’ Yet the material doesn’t reach full potential. The characters come across (the assistant especially well-cast, with the guilty look of a handsome ex-Nazi Youth now going to fat), but trips to Israel, Argentina or Paris miss out on tension & style. Maybe if Kraume had filled us in on some of Bauer’s earlier accomplishments? A major figure in the fight for internal de-Nazification, we only get the info we need at the end of the film. It gives this more than decent film the low impact of a school report.

DOUBLE-BILL: Fritz Bauer is a supporting character in the Oscar® nominated LABYRINTH OF LIES/’14 (not seen here), a similarly themed story that takes place half a decade earlier.

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