16 March 2008 | rsoonsa
Frequent Evasion Of Historic Accuracy Hampers Lavishly Produced Soap Opera.
Liberal budgeting (seven million Euros) is granted this ZDF (Germany) public broadcasting effort that depicts numerous apocryphal episodes from the extensively improbable life of one of Prussian history's more well-known rounders, Friedrich, Freiherr Von Der Trenck, whose romantic exploits have been created to a large extent from whole cloth within his autobiography, and who eventually became, because of his writings, accepted as one of Germany's primary Victims of Injustice. A rather brutish officer in the Prussian Army under Emperor Frederick II (The Great), Trenck did, in fact, play a significant role, as did his at least as roguish cousin Franz, in Frederick's martial successes; however, this two-part mini-series becomes merely an additional application toward the reinforcement of Trenck's reputation as a type of Teutonic Count of Monte Cristo, this being a device-mongering essay at an out of place heroic chronicling that would readily give a viewer the perception that Frederick, in the face of ongoing international imbroglios, was nonetheless most concerned with Trenck's amorous liaison with a younger sister of the Emperor, Princess Anna Amelie (Alexandra-Maria Lara). The principal elements included within the narrative are somewhat well-known, and thereby predictable, and supporting back stories are of limited interest, while the main plot line has Frederick taking Trenck under his protection as a sort of subaltern at the Prussian Court in Potsdam where Amelie forthwith falls in love with him, and it is at this point that the film's cardinal weakness becomes evident, since Ben Becker, who plays as Trenck, is unconvincing as lover, courtier, or military leader. Director Gernot Roll struggles with an oft silly scenario, but excels as director of photography, using to advantage in 35mm. (1:1.85) the provided top-flight production quality and scenic locations, including those in Prague, Moravia, Saxony, Thuringia, et alia. Additionally, design and costuming of a high order deliver a wide range of delights to viewers. Hannes Jaenike handily wins the acting laurels as Count Jaschinsky, arch-enemy of Trenck. Strong turns also come from Henriette Richter-Roehl as maid to Amelie, and August Zirner as the Prussian monarch. A striking thematic score is contributed by Hans Peter Stroer. An unfortunate choice for the title role and an oft trite screenplay hamstring a superbly mounted film.