“Labyrinth of Lies” (2014)
Drama, German (subtitled)
Running Time: 124 minutes
Director: Giulio Ricciarelli
Featuring: Alexander Fehling, Johannes Krisch, Robert Hunger-Bühler, Gert Voss, Friederike Becht
Johann Radmann: “…the only response to Auschwitz is to do the right thing yourself.”
I have to admit first off that I had no idea about the story behind this film and watching it for the first time I was left thinking how could this have happened and could it indeed be happening right now under our very noses. This is a film that asks some very difficult questions and never answers all of them as with the quote above the answers can only be found within us. What would you do and are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the past.
This is based on the real life events of a very young German prosecutor, Johann Radmann, who in 1958 took a personal interest in the case of Charles Schulz, a former Auschwitz extermination camp commander, who is now a teacher. It turns out he has a harder time than he may think with many ex-Nazis now involved in the highest levels of government. When Radmann realizes what is happening he convinces his boss that there are many more cases that require investigation and he is put in charge of a much larger investigation. What he and eventually his comrades find shake Germany to its core and becomes a unifying event that makes the country face up to its past in a very real way.
The film has many surprises and instead of the audience being part of any trial we are taken on a ride that is more akin to a crime procedural that illustrates the complexities of the investigation and mammoth task that had to be undertaken in a way that would not be possible if the Nazis has not been such good record keepers. We are also invited into the familial life of Radmann and what he himself had to face up to so he was able to understand what it may have been like in Nazi Germany.
It would be a cheap spoiler to explain what happens in this film but trust me you will be surprised and at some point the revelations become to unbelievable – except of course all the atrocities that are uncovered are true and may have been white washed if not for the bravery of people like Radmann who needed to face up to what a previous generation had been a part of willingly or not.
I recommend this film highly and it deserves a second and third viewing so that we are reminded that this is our recent past and it should not be forgotten as we move towards the middle of this century.