Movie Review: THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER (2015)
My first ever German language film has impressed me beyond belief. While I don’t stray too far from English or Hindi language movies, this movie by writer-director Lars Kraume, has definitely broadened my horizons, to get completely honest and cliche.
So check out my Spoiler-free Movie Review of ‘The People Vs. Fritz Bauer’.
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
Set in Germany a few years after World War II, ‘The People Vs. Fritz Bauer’ is a tense story about the idealistic and titular Fritz Bauer, (Burghart Klaubner) and his crusade to bring ones responsible for the atrocities committed by the Nazis, to justice. Now I’m not the most knowledgeable about history, but without having to exposit, this film immediately conveys the strained climate in the country, making the story very accessible to even the most general of audiences.
The location and setting of the story is quite possibly the most jarring. Most Hollywood or English language films set in WWII are from the perspective of the Allies; depicting a triumph over adversity tale in a war setting or other period film genre. Where ‘The People Vs. Fritz Bauer’ differs, is by taking the story into the heart of a country whose people are often depicted as the antagonists, and providing a completely new, almost insider’s perspective on what happened in Germany post WWII. It’s extremely intriguing.
Holding the position of Attorney General, Bauer is attempting to hunt down and bring to trial the one of Germans who was a prominent part of Third Reich, responsible for the genocide of Jewish people. Bauer, a Jewish himself, is very passionate about clearing Germany’s name in front of the world, and punishing the extremists responsible for WWII.
The story of ‘The People Vs. Fritz Bauer’ acts as a tight political thriller, with some other elements at work as well. The story never feels the need to explain, politicize or convey sentiments of nationalism or patriotism, as would be very easy to do with a story of this subject matter. Bauer himself acts as the character pushing the story forward, both with his incessant need for justice, as well as his idealistic logic.
The film is a great insight into the inner workings of the German government so close after one of the events that the nation has become unfairly associated with. The fall out from Hitler’s defeat, the sympathizers and uphill battle of reconvening a working government, are all briefly glimpsed in the film, without taking focus from the main conflict. It is as much educational as it is entertaining.
Given that my own ignorance may plays a hand in these elements being appealing to me personally, taking a step back, I realize that even with prior knowledge of these events, the story plays out at a brisk pace, never getting bogged down with all these other depictions of the situation at hand. Klaubner plays Bauer with an urgency that sweeps the viewer into his adventure with him. The most mundane actions or gestures are intensely observed on as they’re all a part of his process and train of thought. Klaubner brings life and dramatic need to a character who is essentially an administrator.
‘The People Vs. Fritz Bauer’ works on many different levels of showcasing a subject matter that, while may have been explored extensively in Hollywood films, never has it been depicted from this viewpoint of the German people in Germany. The performances here are undeniably strong. Being a movie where over the top histrionics are avoided, the quiet subtely of the performances stand out more. Especially from Bauer’s protege Karl, (Ronald Zehrfeld) who he recruits into his mission.
Zehrfeld has his own arc in the film which is a great subplot of personal crisis and despair. Both his and Kalaubner’s pairing allow each actor to play off of one another in a movie that deviates from the usual political thriller in many ways.