The People vs Fritz Bauer
Nazism, love and betrayal seem to be fairly safe topics to make an interesting film. At least that is what film history has proven time and time again – from film-noir classics and suspenseful dramas, to experimental documentaries and blood-spattered comedies. On top of that, adding the lines “based on a true story” will always multiply the desired impact in any kind of genre. Thus, it seems like a safe bet to make a feature film of Fritz Bauer, the Jew and homosexual state attorney who succeeded in tracking down one of the Nazis behind the “Final Solution”. Nonetheless, Director Lars Kraumer fails to make justice to the depth of Bauer’s character providing a rather flat portrayal of his psyche, and a cowardly stance on the politics of his actions and values.
As Bauer (Burghart Klaussner) receives a cryptic letter from Argentina telling him that Reichmann lives in Buenos Aires, he doesn’t share this information with his colleagues – namely because these are all lingering Nazis of the old regime. Instead, he finds accomplices in the Israelites, who shared with him the same hatred for the Third Reich and its former leaders. Karl Angermann (Ronald Zehrfeld), who is confused about his sexuality and an apprentice of Bauer, is added to the mixture to complicate the events in a rather unexpected way.
Although the topics of homosexuality and xenophobia are directly addressed, they are portrayed with a disturbingly impassionate lack of provocation. So much so that the former is rather ridiculed – never confronted but only hinted by how the characters notice each other’s colourful socks. This is but one example of how the bravery that led Bauer to achieve rightfulness by being politically incorrect for the standard of his times is completely overshadowed by Kraumer’s conservativeness and desire for being politically correct.
But the production and costume design, a fine cinematography, and the performances save the story in the end. As Fritz Bauer’s greatest attempt was to confront Germany with its past, The People vs. Fritz Bauer does the same with its audiences. Either by its subject matter or creative approach, it will surely open a discussion on present-day state of affairs regarding the countries involved in the film, war and gay rights.
The People vs. Fritz Bauer does not have a UK release date yet. This is part of the Debate competition in the 59th London Film Festival.
Watch the trailer for The People vs. Fritz Bauer here: