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Germany 2014
Directed by
Giulio Ricciarelli
124 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Labyrinth Of Lies

Synopsis: Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) is a rookie public prosecutor in the Frankfurt court. When journalist Thomas Gnielka (Andre Szymanski) approaches him with evidence of an ex-Auschwitz kommandant teaching in a local school, an investigation ensues which will shake Germany to its core. This is the story of the Frankfurt trials which forced Germany as a nation to face its culpability for the crimes of the Nazis in World War II.

Here is yet another gripping and intensely emotional Holocaust film based upon a true story. For viewers who have little knowledge of the Nazi years it is important to understand that post-war Germany was in denial about its recent past. No-one wanted to acknowledge the concentration camps and what was done to the Jews. Even more troublesome was people’s reluctance to face their personal involvement or to discover that their father or brother had perpetrated heinous crimes. For  many ordinary Germans who had turned a blind eye to what was happening around them during those dark years this was also their response in the aftermath of the war.

The gradual unfolding of this truth is skilfully handled in Labyrinth of Lies. Upon first report that Schultz, the ex-Kommandant has been involved in systematic murder, the majority of judges at the prosecutor’s office declare there is no evidence so they can do nothing. We immediately suspect that many of them may have a past to hide. It is really only the chief Attorney General Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss) who encourages Radmann to delve deeper, however with the warning that the investigation will become a labyrinth. When Radmann convinces an American soldier stationed in Frankfurt to give him access to the meticulous records kept by the Nazis, evidence starts to emerge as the names of every SS man who ever worked at Auschwitz are uncovered.  As survivors are tracked down and their testimonies taken it becomes clear that there have been murders, hundreds of thousands of them.

As in the recently-screened Truth and Spotlight, investigative research figures strongly in the plot but not to the neglect of the intensely personal side of the story. Radmann meets and falls for Marlene (Friederike Becht), a fashion designer but as he becomes more obsessive in his hunt for truth their relationship suffers. He also becomes focussed upon Josef Mengele, Auschwitz's so-called “Angel Of Death”, and this almost brings him to neglect his primary objective – tracking down and prosecuting the ordinary Germans who are trying to hide from their crimes. As Radmann’s obsession grows and he drinks to excess he indeed becomes lost in the maze of  implications, seeing guilt everywhere without acknowledging any shades of grey.

The examination of the overall guilt of a nation and the moral issues involved for the average citizen is deftly handled in Ricciarelli's film. The scripting is tight and the counterbalancing of the historical with the personal makes for a very accessible story. Cinematography and production design are flawless whilst the musical scoring is a powerful complement to a fine and affecting film.




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