Thursday, September 15, 2016

People vs. Fritz Bauer

Fritz Bauer, a prosecutor working in post-War Germany, turned up as a character in the recent movie Labyrinth of Lies. When I saw that movie, in which Bauer plays an important supporting character, I wondered whether Labyrinth shouldn't have spent more time with him than with a fictionalized young lawyer who tires to bring former Nazis to justice. In the new movie, The People vs. Fritz Bauer, Bauer becomes the main character in a complex and well-acted drama that, like Labyrinth, draws power from the real events on which its based. Director Lars Kraume focuses on Bauer's efforts to bring Adolf Eichmann to trial in West Germany. Bauer, a Jew, learns that Eichmann may be hiding in Argentina. He confirms what he's heard, but faces resistance from colleagues who wish to let the matter die. Bauer (Burghart Klaussner) presses on, eventually turning to the Israeli Mossad for help. Bauer works with an associate (Ronald Zehrfeld), a fictional character whose relationship with his boss is complicated by the fact that both have homosexual leanings that could land them in jail in West Germany of 1957. Kraume, who co-wrote the screenplay with Olivier Guez, can't quite give the drama the moral sweep for which he may have been aiming, but Klaussner's performance as the cigar-smoking, difficult-to-read Bauer conveys the complexities of a man trying to find justice in a society that not long ago wanted to see him dead and in which remnants of those sentiments haven't totally been purged.

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