26 January 2014 | t_atzmueller
Hard to believe that this is only" a TV- and not a cinema-movie (and hard to believe that it was produced by RTL2)
1995 was the year in which actor Götz George wanted to break the mold and prove that he's beyond the role of hardy street-cop "Schimanski", in which he had been typecast for almost 20 years. George had already collected accolades for his performance in the satire "Schtonk!" three years prior, but most viewers still identified him with the Schimanksi-character. With the chamber-play-type "Der Totmacher" and TV-Psycho-Thriller "Der Sandmann", George finally established himself as one of Germany's finest actors.
Ina Littmann (Eichhorn) is a young, ambitious journalist, who feels that she has neither given her dues nor her chance in the male-dominated industry. Littmann senses her big chance when she is told to interview Henry Kupfer (George), a rehabilitated prostitute-killer, who had spend years in jail and has since established himself as bestseller novelist (who usually writes about serial-killers). At the same time there is a string of prostitute-killings, which seem eerily similar to those committed by Kupfer years earlier. Sensing a "big story", Littmann plans to lure Kupfer into confessing the murders during a live-televised discussion-panel. Now begins a cat-and-mouse-game and sooner than later Littmann is no longer sure on which end of the game she's playing.
The performances in "Der Sandmann" are altogether excellent but it is Götz George who steals the show. Full to the brim with the charm of the psychopath, his killer-cum-novelist figure Kupfer is fascinating, mysterious, witty, at times menacing, all the while leaving the viewer to guess (along with Karoline Eichhorn, doing a superb job herself) which role Kupfer is playing in this game. At the same time director Nico Hofmann is able to build up a tension of feel of tension that until that date (or since) has rarely been seen on German TV. TV that in many ways was far superior to what was/is shown in German cinema.
Yes, it is true that "Der Sandmann" has elements that can best be described as "Silence of the Lambs"-'esque, but those are subliminal and make the film by no means a rip-off. Rather, it contains elements of the real case of serial-killer Jack Unterweger. Unterweger had been imprisoned for having killed a prostitute, "rehabilitated" in jail and gained through his novellas and poems. Upon his release, Unterweger was courted by the German and Austrian "café intellectuals"; while heralded as literature genius and perfect example of rehabilitation through art – all the while Unterweger kept murdering, killing between 10 and 15 more women. Unterweger hanged himself in 1994 (ironically with the same complex knot that he used to strangle his victims with).
At the same time Hofmann has produced a criticism of the sensational (TV)-boulevard-media and the no less cynical consumerist audience. Which is ironic, since "The Sandmann" was produced for German private TV-channel RTL2, which at the time catered to just the audience which the film criticizes. It's even harder to believe that this was the same RTL2 which today stands as epiphany of so-called "Unterschichten-TV" (Low-Class-TV; sometimes also referred to as "social pornography"), which generally only features Jerry-Springer-like shows and the infamous "jungle-camp"-series, where has-been- and wanna-be-celebrities consume bugs and excrements for a few moments of public attention. We could be cynic and say "RTL2 has gone a long way from times of "Der Sandmann"".
As far as a TV-film goes, "The Sandmann" is as close, if not superior to cinema as it gets. Highly recommendable (if you're able to find it somewhere, that is).