Film-repentance about Nazi crimes. A dramatic film about the struggle for justice, double morality and serving the letter of the law.
A cold-blooded murder took place in a fashionable hotel. A gray-haired man, who introduced himself as a journalist, shot and killed the reputable manufacturer Jean-Baptiste Mayer, his role was played by Manfred Zapatka. A bloody killer is not a fugitive from justice.
A young lawyer, Kaspar Lainen (Elias M’Barek), becomes Collini’s (Franco Nero) defense attorney. He is a little fussy, trying to hide his confusion, this is his first business. The man failed to establish contact with Fabrizio, who did not utter a word.
In a conversation with colleagues, Linen finds out that the victim was his guardian, but he knew the victim under a different name. In the evening, Johanna Mayer (Alexandra Maria Lara) comes to Kaspar. He supports the tycoon’s inconsolable granddaughter and confesses that he has been appointed as the criminal’s lawyer. The woman leaves in anger.
In the courthouse, a man meets a law teacher, the legend of the legal world, Richard Mattinger (Heiner Lauterbach). The professor is a co-plaintiff in a high-profile case. He persuades the former student not to refuse to participate in the process. Lainen wants to know the motive and again goes to meet with the Italian. Silence was the answer to all questions.
Kaspar came to the funeral in a luxurious mansion, which became his home. He is haunted by memories of a happy childhood and a terrible accident in which the children and grandson of the magnate died. Lainen was romantically involved with Johanna as a teenager. At the memorial dinner, he sees his own father, Bernard (Peter Prager), who left the family. The parent tries to reconcile, but the young man is unfriendly.
The trial does not bode well for the defense. In another conversation, a desperate lawyer makes an emotional speech that the murdered man replaced his father. For the first time, the gloomy old man shows interest – he says that we must not forget the real dad. The protagonist is looking for a connection between the victim and the accused. Mattinger offers a deal – the killer pleads guilty, and the article of the charge is changed for him. The perpetrator does not accept the offer.
The heroine of Alexandra Maria Lara comes to Lainen, they spend the night together. In court, the defender notices an interesting fact – a pistol of a rare brand, and recalls that Hans had a similar weapon. He asks the judge for a delay in order to clarify the revealed circumstance. The woman gives 4 days.
The lawyer hires an extravagant girl, a cafe courier, as a translator. They go to the small home of the Italian. The man instructs Bernard to study 1,500 pages of archival data. In Montecatini, the defender and his companion find an acquaintance of Collini and he tells about the terrible events of July 1944.
Herr Richard visits the Turk and offers not to release new information in exchange for a promising job. Hanna joins the persuasion, a quarrel breaks out between the young people.
During the hearing, it is revealed that the victim was an SS officer. Witness Claudio Lucchesi described a terrible picture – because of the murder of 2 Wehrmacht soldiers, they ordered the execution of 20 inhabitants of the village. Among those captured was Collini Sr., and the young Fabrizio rushed to his defense. The officer forced the boy to watch how the executioners take the lives of civilians and his father.
After the break, the character of Lautenbach took the floor and informed those present that punitive actions took place in the war, but such incidents were considered by a military tribunal. The accused and his sister filed a lawsuit against Jean-Baptiste Meyer, but were refused to initiate proceedings.
The lawyer is confused and discouraged, but the client does not care about his own fate. He longs for justice, and wonders: “By what law did the villain escape responsibility?”. With his team, Linen lifts the archive and discovers a curious document.
At the trial, Elias M’Barek’s hero interrogates Richard as an expert. The jurist behaves boldly, mocking an inexperienced lawyer. With innocent questions, the Turk gets to the law of Eduard Dreyer, in the approval of which the trainee Mattinger took part. According to the amendments, the execution of civilians fell under the article “manslaughter”, and the statute of limitations for such cases has passed. An assertive man forces the professor to admit that the legislative act was wrong, the fascist should have been convicted of atrocities. The elderly Italian is moved, he thanks the defender.
The next day, the judge shocked those present with tragic news – the defendant committed suicide.
Kaspar opens his office. He’s flying to Collini’s funeral. After parting, the lawyer sits in a street cafe. He sees the young Fabrizio and his father leaving into the distance.
The meaning of the film
The work of director Marco Kreutzpaintner raised an extremely painful topic, touched not only on the blood-chilling atrocities of the Nazis, but also on a legal crime. Dreyer’s Law allowed sadists and their henchmen to live out their days freely. The Nuremberg trials paid what they deserved only to the fascist elite, and the puppets who carried out inhuman orders did not receive retribution.
The picture is a litmus test, revealing large-scale duplicity, reveals tragedies and individual characters. The heroes of the drama are outstanding, textured personalities, vehemently defending their innocence. Noteworthy is the competition between two lawyers, inexperience against experience, cold calculation against sensual nature, true service to the law against the substitution of concepts. But it cannot be said that this is a struggle between good and evil, black and white, the plot is full of halftones, and the characters are full of contradictions. The young man does not make a deal, but, following a sense of duty, he represents the interests of the killer of a person close to him. His opponent, a clever businessman, hides the inconvenient truth about the past of an influential German, does not shy away from pressure and bribery, but cannot be cunning, distorting the true purpose of justice.
Characteristics of heroes
Kaspar is an energetic man with a flexible mind, persistent, meticulous. Relates to work with all his heart, abstracting from a personal relationship. Incorruptible and not afraid of difficulties. He knows how to forgive and gives a second chance, he reconciled with his father, does not hold a grudge against Hannah, who, in a fit of emotions, said unpleasant things. The character of EmBarek is not afraid of an authoritative rival, he, respecting his merits, does not fawn and does not bend.
Fabrizio Collini is a man who has lost his faith. He avenged the death of a parent after fruitless attempts to bring him to justice. The old man has lost interest in life, he is lonely, the only thing that matters is the triumph of justice. He regrets that he is causing trouble to the defender and does not trust him for a long time.
Richard Mattinger is a skilled “master” of legal sciences. Cunning, charismatic, knows how to win over. Arrogant, confused when he was pressed against the wall by an inexperienced opponent. I am sincerely convinced that the most important thing is to respect the law and the right, but the difficult post-war period required difficult decisions. I found the strength to admit my mistake.
Hannah is an insecure woman. She goes against her wishes, works in her grandfather’s company, but dreamed of photography. Married, but her husband did not support her in difficult times, did not come to the funeral of a relative. Suggestible, she is easily pressured by the appointed co-plaintiff. Hot love for Jean-Baptiste outweighs the voice of reason.
Hans Mayer is cold-blooded and cruel, not only staged a demonstrative execution, but also mocked the child. He raised a poor Turkish child as his own grandson, did not skimp on expensive gifts. In the last minutes of his life, he repented for his deed.
A film that touches on a lively and controversial decision: “Guilty or Innocent”?
Kreuzpaintner’s tape slowly, methodically reveals an unsightly milestone in German history. The viewer is in the dark, endless “why” do not find an answer, “bread crumbs” appear bit by bit. The brilliant play of the cast evokes a wide palette of emotions – indignation, regret, bitterness, a thirst for retribution. Franco Nero is immersed in himself for most of the screen time, but his silence is more expressive than passionate speeches. Elias MBarek is the exact opposite, his eloquence, active nature and liveliness captivate and delight.
Despite the lack of special effects and dynamics, the picture does not look faded, comebacks to the past are appropriate and concise. The visuals are accompanied by Ben Lucas Boysen’s soundtrack, heightening the emotional strain.
The disadvantages include the undisclosed storyline of the relationship between the Mayer clan and the new family member, the motive that prompted the guardianship of the boy is unknown.
The touching appearance of an innocently murdered parent and son in the final shots is a balm for the hearts of the audience, torn by experiences. The suicide of the Italian causes misunderstanding – he passed away, having achieved the condemnation of the executioner, and one step away from the verdict. The audience will remain in the dark about what the court’s verdict was.