19 October 2016 | paul-allaer
"Do you like to hunt?" "Yes, but not on animals"
"The People vs. Fritz Bauer" (2015 release from Germany; 105 min., original title "Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer") brings the dramatic retelling of the circumstances within which Hesse Attorney General Bauer prosecuted former Nazis in post- WWII Germany. As the movie opens, we are reminded it is "Frankfurt in the late 1950s", and we get to know Fritz Bauer. In the opening scene he almost drowns in his bath tub (an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, it turns out). But the incident has caused concern with others. One of Bauer's State Attorneys (i.e. more junior prosecutor) invites Bauer to the country side. "Do you like to hunt?" he asks, to which Bauer replies "Yes, but not animals", ha! Indeed Bauer is working feverishly to track down Adolf Eichmann. At this point we're 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first, this is NOT a bio-pic of Fritz Bauer. Indeed, we get little to no background information as to his life prior to 1957 or after 1960 (starting and closing points of the movie). In a way, this is unfortunate, as an unsuspecting viewer may not fully realize the importance of this man in German politics. Second, the movie's central theme that "the people" or "the state" (as the original German title reads) is against Bauer is somewhat misleading. It's really the German political establishment, which was riddled at the time with former Nazis, which tries to stifle Bauer's efforts. This theme was something of a taboo in Germany for decades following WWII. Just last year there was another German movie, also involving Bauer, called "Labyrinth of Lies", which also addressed this. Thirdly, strictly from a film viewing perspective, the production is rather "dry" and at times it feels like watching a European TV drama. But I nevertheless enjoyed it quite a bit. Last, the movie also spends quite a bit of time looking at one of Bauer's closest aides, State Attorney Angermann. At the end of the movie, there are some announcements about what became of Bauer. But inexplicably nothing is said about what became of Angermann. Not sure how that could've happened (and leading me to deduct one further star from my overall rating).
"The People vs. Fritz Bauer" opened this weekend without any pre-release advertising or hype at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati. The Tuesday early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended well (1 person besides myself), which is a shame. Hopefully this is the type of movie that will find a larger audience once it gets exposure on Amazon Instant Video, and eventually is released on DVD/Blu-ray. If you are in the mood for a true historical drama about an important episode of German politics post -WWII, I can readily recommend that you check this out.