THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER (Lars Kraume). 105 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (October 21). See listings. Rating: NNN
This film dramatizes the postwar efforts of Frankfurt prosecutor Fritz Bauer (Bridge Of Spies’ Burghart Klaussner) to locate the fugitive Nazi Adolph Eichmann in the hopes of trying him in Frankfurt for crimes against humanity during the Second World War.
If it all feels a little familiar, that’s because Labyrinth Of Lies covered much of the same ground last year, if not nearly as well; the closest thing here to that film’s melodrama is a clunky subplot about Bauer’s fictional associate Karl Angermann, a closeted lawyer played as a mess of self-loathing by Ronald Zehrfeld (Phoenix).
The movie doesn’t need it, but I can understand why director/co-writer Lars Kraume thought it did: it provides Bauer with a sounding board for dramatic purposes, and who better to accompany this cranky German Jew – who escaped a concentration camp to spend most of the war in exile, only to return after the war as a living reminder of what his countrymen failed to accomplish – than another person who would have been exterminated by the Third Reich?
But the material with Angermann feels like a distraction from the mission. Kraume treats Bauer’s investigation like a procedural, even using an incongruous film-noir jazz score to position his hero as a lonely seeker of truth in a world that would rather he didn’t bother. Speaking of which: the original German title, The State Vs. Fritz Bauer, is much more accurate.