Burghart Klaussner (Fritz Bauer) may just be one of my favorite actors. It is not often I fall for a balding curmudgeon (see also Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella in The Great Beauty) but Klaussner delivers a masterful performance as Attorney General Fritz Bauer who must surmount the odds in his quest to bring Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Jewish concentration camps, to justice.
Despite the absence of action, the tension is taut, the atmosphere suspenseful. Bauer is thwarted at every turn by the establishment, still staffed with former Nazis and sympathetic to the Third Reich, and the people, eager to forget and remove themselves from that ugly past.
The writing – Lars Kraume & Oliver Guez – is exceptionally well done. The film opens with Bauer addressing Germany’s youth (and the audience) on television,
Today Germany is proud of its economic miracle. It’s also proud to be the home of Goethe and Beethoven. But Germany is also the country of Hitler, Eichmann and their numerous accomplices and followers. But as the day consists of day and night, so the history of every nation has its bright and dark sides. I believe that the younger generation in Germany is ready to learn about the complete history, the whole truth, which on occasion can prove to be difficult to process for their parents.
and sets the tone for the movie. There are moments of dry wit and humor where, like me, you’ll share a chuckle with Bauer who has a gift for repartee. Of note is this exchange early on between Bauer and the Minister-President after an unfortunate mishap in the bath:
There are rumours, Fritz.
That you tried to take your own life.
It’s been a long time since I slept without chemicals.
As your employer, I can’t turn a blind eye to these rumours.
I own a pistol. When I want to end my life, there will be no rumours.
I also liked this witticism in the conversation between Bauer and Angermann, his protege, after Angermann petitions the court to fine the defendant just 5-Deutschmarks (a ‘Heiermann’) for sleeping with a homosexual prostitute.
I heard about your petition for a scandalous sentence. A real ‘Heiermann’ as they say for immoral homosexual prostitution. You dared!
Chief Prosecutor Kriedler deems it a scandal.
And I deem it a scandal that Kriedler is Chief Prosecutor.