Im Labyrinth des Schweigens


Action / Drama / History


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Alexander Fehling as Johann Radmann

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Mike B 9 / 10


This is definitely one of the more powerful holocaust films. It doesn't have any visual images of the holocaust. It's about the aftermath. To bring the perpetrators on trial, the effects on a Germany (or West Germany) in total denial, of the children of the Nazi era and their latent guilt of what their parents may have done or did. One feels what it was to grow up German during this period of the late 1950's.

It's very emotional performance by Alexander Fehling. We feel his anguish as he learns the scale of his country's complicity of what happened – and his anger and frustration at the lies to circumvent it all. And this is told at the personal level – it is individuals whose lives were shattered and it is individuals who did the destroying.

Unique and impressive.

Reviewed by Paul Allaer 8 / 10

"To remain silent is to poison our democracy"

"Labyrinth of Lies" (2014 release from Germany; original title "Im Labyrinth des Schweigens" or "In the Labyrinth of Silence" 122 min.) brings the story of the events leading up to the so-called Frankfurt Auschwitz trials in 1963. As the movie opens, we are told it is "Frankfurt-am-Main, 1958", and we get to know a young prosecutor named Johann Radmann, who is just starting his career, doing traffic violations. But soon he gets (and seizes) the opportunity to look into the case of a Waffen SS soldier who was a commander at Auschwitz and is now teaching in grade school as if nothing ever happened. Radmann soon finds that there is widespread resistance to his efforts to prosecute ex-Nazis. At this point, we are 15 minutes into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this movie is an important reminder that the sentiment in Germany wasn't always what it is nowadays and has been for decades. It appears that after WW II, the entire country went about its business as if nothing had happened, and collectively tries to whitewash Auschwitz from memory. But as Radmann points out, "to remain silent is to poison our country's democracy". So he speaks up. It is an incredible story. Kudos to the movie's producers for bringing us this important historical reminder. Besides the important moral and historical aspects, the movie does a great job portraying what daily life in the late 50s and early 60s was in West Germany. Check out the great looking cars! "Labyrinth of Lies" was Germany's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar nominations, which should give you an idea how well the movie was viewed in its home country (the fact that it didn't get the Oscar nomination doesn't diminish the merits of the movie).

"Labyrinth of Lies" was released over a year ago. I have no idea why it is just now finding its way into US theaters, but better late than never. The movie showed up this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, I figure this won't stick around for long. The Sunday matinée screening where I saw this at was surprisingly well attended, I am happy to report. If you are in the mood for a top-notch quality foreign movie that has a very important lesson and reminder, I urge you to check out "Labyrinth of Lies", be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Labyrinth of Lies" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Reviewed by Thomas ([email protected]) 6 / 10

Historically interesting, weak subplots unfortunately

"Im Labyrinth des Schweigens" or "Labyrinth of Lies" is director Giulio Ricciarelli's first feature film after 4 short films in the last ten years. So, looking at how he is relatively new to the genre, the result is not bad at all especially given Ricciarelli also wrote the film together with Elisabath Bartel. Actually, he has been more of an actor so far, just like his wife Lisa Martinek. She also plays a small part in here. The main part is played by Alexander Fehling, namely a prosecutor (Radmann) 15 years after World War II. Fehling is one of Germany's rising stars and you may have seen him in "Goethe! not too long ago. The role was pretty baity and all in all Fehling did a good job with it. My favorite performance, however, comes from the recently deceased Gert Voss, who plays a bit of a father figure and mentor to Fehling's character, at the very moment Radmann loses faith in his real father.

Prosecutor Radmann looks into German history and tries to catch those responsible for the crimes during World War II. Obviously, there is also lots of morale in there. Can they be punished for being in the party? What did they have to do to be really responsible for what happened and face consequences? Wasn't everybody involved somehow? Including the central character's family? Why haven't they done anything to stop the tragedy? There were a couple good scenes in this film. I liked the reactions from Radmann's secretary and also the one-word-swearing from his colleague right after one interrogation. Maybe my favorite moment of the film and I quite liked Johann von Bülow's performance here. The historic references were interesting too and I was surprised to see how so many people did not know anything about Auschwitz, apart from these who obviously did not want to know.

Unfortunately, there are also some criticisms. The ending was too heroic for me and too forced as a happy end I thought. Okay, you could bring up the excuse, this is how it happened in real, but somehow I did not like it. It would have been nice to watch the filmmakers take the risk and end the film with the lead character failing as we see him as a private prosecutor together with the lawyer who defended the accused Nazi criminal earlier on when he called his acts human as he was not the one deciding who gets killed, but who shall live. Apart from that, basically all the romantic scenes felt really weak to me. The problem was not the acting there, it was really the writing. The first meeting where the female main character is at court is not good and the ending with the two and the jacket metaphor I thought was downright cringeworthy. Also the scene with Radmann's mother felt randomly rushed in as this relationship remained completely unexamined.

This is not a perfect movie at all, sometimes the dialogs are excellent, sometimes the exact opposite, but everybody with an interest in German history or German films in general can give it a chance. If you liked it, let me recommend you an older film with a similar topic: "Das schreckliche Mädchen" / "The Nasty Girl", an Oscar nominee in the Foreign Language Film category from roughly 25 years ago.

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