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Review: The People vs. Fritz Bauer

The People vs. Fritz Bauer is the story of an interesting man and an interesting tale told almost like a prologue.

Instead of telling the story of Fritz Bauer attempting to capture Adolf Eichmann, Lars Kraume instead chooses to focus on what happened beforehand, borrowing much of the story from history, (Bughart Klaussner excellently capturing Fritz Bauer), and in a very surprising decision, chooses to invent a crucial element as well, through the invention of the character of Karl Angermann, (Ronald Zehrfeld, yes the very same Zehrfeld from Phoenix, which is a similar tale). The casting of Zehrfeld in a very different role, (and looking quite different than as Johnny in the Christian Petzold movie) is a shrewd move, as his Angermann (and one wonders if his naming is intentional), is meant to capture the sense of unease that comes from going against the acceptable norms. This is a time of great worry, (1957), and the idea of putting Nazi criminals on trial is almost ludicrous.

The character of Angermann, (and of course, of the much more real Bauer himself) seem to act as surrogates to this idea of being put on trial in the public sense means that they will also be on trial in their public lives. This idea becomes all the more subversive when it is seen what Angermann is hiding, (and perhaps slyly suggests that Bauer may have suppressed similar predilections). The most surprising element is that despite being instrumental in passing the information about Eichmann to the Mossad, much of Bauer’s affairs are not actually very well-known, and it is as though the actions dominate. Therefore, in telling this story, Kraume is careful to invent very little about Bauer himself, letting Angermann experience much of the disbelief of the time. The film is shot in a grainy throwback fashion, which serves to further heighten the sense of foreboding and unknown that dominates the narrative of the era. The film is perhaps even more relevant now, in a time of private lives being made public.

[star v=35]