Based on a true story.
“You know, after ’45 I really thought we’d conquered evil. I thought we’d be able to build a new society: free, just, fraternal…”
Twelve years on, Frankfurt Attorney General Fritz Bauer (Burghart Klaußner, The Reader) despairs that justice will never be done, as the “new” German government seeks to protect the same high-level Nazis it’s charged with prosecuting for war crimes. Why? “The investigating authorities are full of Nazis: the Federal Criminal Police Office, the federal and domestic intelligence services. Inside my own offices files go missing.”
A break in the clouds arrives one day by way of a letter from one Lothar Hermann of Argentina, who’s convinced that the father of his teenage daughter’s boyfriend is none other than “the organizer of the Final Solution” himself; former SS officer Lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann (Michael Schenk, Bridge of Spies), living nearby, under an alias.
Bauer plans to bring Eichmann back to Frankfurt to stand trial, but doesn’t trust his own government’s official channels to provide anything but fair warning to the former SS officer, thus enabling him to relocate. Instead, he considers contacting Mossad—the Israeli secret service—for help, which legally constitutes treason.
Directed with brisk, business-like efficiency by Lars Kraume (The Coming Days), The People vs. Fritz Bauer deftly balances the personal and the procedural, as well as the factual and the fictional. Though based on fact–the film opens with archival footage of the real Bauer–Kraume’s screenplay (co-written with Olivier Guez) invents several characters, most notably fellow prosecuting attorney Karl Angermann (Ronald Zehrfeld, Barbara), a young and idealistic former pupil of Bauer’s, and Victoria (Lilith Stangenberg, Wild), the nightclub chanteuse that roils the recently married man’s loins, thus setting him up for a blackmail plot in order to weaken his alliance with the troublesome A.G.
This derivation from historical record has roiled some critics in the same way that many were put off by the addition of a key (fictional) character to Patriots Day, the cinematic depiction of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. I guess I’d be on their side if the devices employed in The People vs. Fritz Bauer didn’t work so well. I can neither verify the existence of senior state attorney Ulrich Kreidler, but will swear in court that actor Sebastian Blomberg (The Baader Meinhof Complex) portrays the very model of smiley, sniveling duplicity.
The heavily-celebrated import–which swept the German Film Awards–arrives stateside in a fine 2.39:1/1080p Blu-ray transfer from the Cohen Media Group, boasting a clutch of extras, including a short but informative “making of” featurette, a brace of five deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer. The original German soundtrack is helpfully aided by English subtitles.
While The People vs. Fritz Bauer won’t prepare you to write the definitive college thesis on the former German attorney, its mix of fact and fiction make for a highly satisfying cinematic experience.
Alles in ordnung.