Labyrinth of Lies (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 16, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful and thought-provoking film based on real events of how post-war Germany was trying to move forward from World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime, but how a prosecutor was determined to go after as many Nazi soldiers who were involved in atrocities at Auschwitz, despite pressures for him to give up and quit. Giulio Ricciarelli’s “Labyrinth of Lies” is recommended!
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TITLE: Labyrinth of Lies
YEAR OF FILM: 2014
DURATION: 123 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1, German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016
Directed by Giulio Ricciarelli
Screenplay by Elisabeth Bartel, Giulio Ricciarelli, Amelie Syberg (collaboration)
Produced by Turi Vasile, Luggi Waldfeitner
Music by Benedetto Ghiglia, Piero Piccioni
Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi
Edited by Franco Fraticelli
Production Design by Maurizio Chiari
Set Decoration by Bruno Cesari
Costume Design by Maurizio Chiari
Alexander Fehling as Johann Radmann
Andre Szymanski as Thomas Gnielka
Friederike Becht as Marlene Wondrak
Johannes Krisch as Simon Kirsch
Johann von Bulow as Staatsanwalt Otto Haller
Robert Hunger-Buhler as Oberstaatsanwalt Walter Friedberg
Hansi Jochmann as sekretarin Schmittchen
Lukas Miko as Hermann Langein
Gert Voss as Generalstaatsanwait Fritz Bauer
Tim Williams as Major Parker
Germany 1958. In those years, “Auschwitz” was a word that some people had never heard of, and others wanted to forget as quickly as possible. Against the will of his immediate superior, young prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) begins to examine the case of recently identified teacher who was a former Auschwitz gard. Radmann soon lands in a web of repression and denial, but also of idealization. He devotes himself with utmost commitment to his new task and is resolved to find out what really happened. He oversteps boundaries, falls out with friends, colleagues and allies, and is sucked deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of lies and guilt in his search for the truth. But what he ultimately brings to light will change the country forever.
Italian Actor and producer Giulio Ricciarelli (“Rosselini”, “Black Money”) is known for his roles on camera but this time around, the actor focused on his experience behind the camera in the 2014 German drama “Im Labyrinth des Schweigens” (Labyrinth of Lies).
Featuring a screenplay co-written by Ricciarelli and Elisabeth Bartel, the film would star Alexander Fehling (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Young Goethe in Love”, “Am Ende Kommen Touristen”), Andre Szymanski (“Wolfsburg”), Friederike Becht (“The Reader”, “Hannah Arendt”), Johannes Krisch (“Revanche”, “360”), Johann von Bulow (“The Stranger in Me”, “13 Minutes”), Robert Hunger-Buhler (“Angst”, “Unter dir die Stadt”), Hansi Jochmann (“Shining Through”, “Pfarrer Braun”) and Gert Voss (“Der Kopf des Mohren”, “Doktor Knock”).
And now the Blu-ray will be released courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Inspired on a true story, “Labyrinth of Lies” takes place in the late 1950’s. A scene begins near a school and a Jewish artist named Simon Kirsch (portrayed by Johannes Krisch) needs a light and comes across a man named Charles Schulz (a former Auschwitz extermination camp commander) which he remembers and is scared of him.
We are then taken to a law office and are introduced to young public prosecutor Johann Radmann (portrayed by Alexander Fehling). Not knowing how things work around his office, when he sees Walter Friedberg (portrayed by Robert Hunger-Bhuhler) and the older man ask for the law office to take on the case and how a Nazi is teaching at a school and how it’s not right.
The law office is not interested and talk about Auschwitz of being western propaganda and whatever happened in the past is past.
But when Walter goes to Radmann and gives him a paper, his boss throws the paper away and tells Radmann to focus on his own work.
But always being curious, Radmann decides to retrieve the paper and brings it up during a lawyer’s meeting with the head boss Fritz Bauer (portrayed by Gert Voss) listening and how he would like to pursue this case. Fritz tells him that it may be a difficult because for a lot of people in the war who were Nazi, many went to go work in a variety of jobs, including the government. He would need to have proof.
When Radmann goes to meet with Walter and Simon, he begins to research on what happened in Auschwitz and learn about the details of what really happened when the Nazi’s kept Jews imprisoned in the camps. While Radmann wants Simon to give him more information, for some reason, Simon is not interested in talking about the past.
But Radmann and Walter end up stealing papers from Simon which detail thousands of Nazi’s who worked in Auschwitz and those who are still employed in Germany.
But when Radmann begins discussing with survivors from Auschwitz of what happened, he learns that many were tortured and killed. Many just for glancing at Nazi soldiers. But learns that the deaths were not a few, nor a dozen, nor a hundred, but thousands of people of all ages who were murdered.
Needing more witnesses and hoping to get Simon to be a witness, he learns the truth from Simon of why he doesn’t talk about the past. It’s because he had two beautiful twin daughters and thinking that the doctor that he gave them to, would take good car of them in Auschwitz, he learned that the doctor was Josef Mengele, who tortured and experimented on twins.
This leads Radmann, sickened by all the witness testimonies and what happened to Simon’s children to now want to do all he can and put those who caused crimes in Auschwitz and have the proof of it, and let justice speak in behalf of the victims.
But Radmann is quick to learn, Germany has never prosecuted the Nazi’s and for whatever happened in the past, many feel it necessary to keep it in the past.
“Labyrinth of Lies” is presented in 2:35:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. Closeups of characters and clothing show great detail. Skin tones look natura and black levels look nice and deep. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Labrynth of Lies” is presented in German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue and music driven with surround channels showcasing ambiance or noises from the parties which the characters are in. But for the most part, dialogue and music are crystal clear.
Features English, English SDH and French subtitles.
“Labyrinth of Lies” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Giulio Ricciarelli and Alexander Fehling.
- Deleted Scenes – (5:46) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
- LA Jewish Film Festival Q&A – (43:01) Featuring a Q&A with director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling.
- Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailers for “Labyrinth of Lies”.
“Labyrinth of Lies” comes with an UltraViolet code for digital viewing.
I think for many people who have read their history books or watched archived news of the rise and fall of the Nazi Germany, there is always something in back of your mind that wanted to know of what happened after the war.
While modern news have showcased various war criminals who have been put on trial, there is not much known outside of Germany of what happened to the soldiers who served Hitler and how Germans felt. Nor what transpired after World War II aside from the dismantling of Germany by the Allied Forces. Or how regular people felt about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.
With “Labyrinth of Lies”, the story is based on a true story of lawyers who wanted to carry out justice for the Auschwitz survivors against those who were involved in the mass killing of European Jews.
Many of those who served at Auschwitz went back home, started new careers and moved on. Germany and its people moved on and move forward after Germany’s loss in the war.
But not many people knew about the atrocities committed by the Nazi people and what took place at the camps. What happened was that Nazi soldiers returned back home to civilian life and they were protected by the German government and the country’s statute of limitations forbid any of the soldiers being tried unless they committed a murder.
For Italian actor/producer turned filmmaker Giulio Ricciarelli (who resides in Germany), his goal was to research and create a story based on the prosecutors who worked on the first public prosecution against war criminals in Germany and how they were determined to get all the witness statements that they can in order to persecute these individuals who had involvement in the atrocities.
“Labyrinth of Lies” is a film that doesn’t focus on the Nazi’s, Germany’s loss in the war or World War II, it’s about a young prosecutor named Johann Radmann, due to his youth and hard-headedness, wanted to take on the case against those who committed atrocities on innocents at Auschwitz and hold them accountable and let Justice carry out the punishment for those involved.
The film would show how public sentiment was towards Radmann pursuing such a case. A superior who is dedicated to this country, feels that Radmann is bring up old wounds and he should stop. Radmann himself and many others, unaware of what happened in Auschwitz and if they did hear of something, they pushed it aside and treated it as western propaganda.
But seeing Radmann discovering the stories of the many Jews who were imprisoned at Auschwitz and their stories of being tortured or having loved ones murdered by the Nazi’s, no doubt touched his soul to the point that the case was the mission.
But as Radmann would soon find out, going after the Nazi’s is generally going against a huge demographic of Germans who served their country and in essence, during World War II, were Nazi themselves.
So, as the film focuses on justice for the dead and those who survived Auschwitz, the film is also about learning, growing and essentially Germany learning about what really transpired at Auschwitz and why these Germans who worked at Auschwitz, who are now working as government officials, teachers or someone that works at a store one typically frequents, are unaware the devilish , tragic and disgusting things that were committed at Auschwitz.
There is no doubt that “Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful film that took much research (it took director Ricciarelli three years to work on the script) but to also create a film that shows an apathetic Germany, it was no doubt one of the hot, possibly taboo topics for one to discuss at that time and inspired by real events, brought to the big screen over 50-years later.
Fortunately, for those who want to take a breather from the more deeper scenarios featured the film, there is a romance story between Johann Radmann and Marlene Wondrak (portrayed by Friederike Becht) that does bring a little laughter in the film. But while I felt there were certain scenes involving the two that could have been cut out of the film.
But even the relationship starts to take a more serious direction when Radmann, who begins to lose it after discovering how Germany would choose to forget the past or what the Nazi regime did and many Germans at the time, served with the Nazi military and starts to question himself and this mega case. Eventually Radmann’s curiousity leads him to start his own investigation and find out if his own father and Marlene’s father have a connection to the Nazi regime.
The film is no doubt an eye-opener but watching the Q&A featurette with director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling at the LA Jewish Film Festival, it was rather interesting to watch because Fehling’s reactions, having been raised in Germany to answer the questions of German’s feelings towards the genocide is no surprise, because it’s the same similar answer I get when I discuss with my friends in Japan about what Japan did to China and what the Imperial Army committed during World War II. Many people in Japan look at what happened back then, is something that happened back then and doesn’t affect the present. Fehling answer and how one person he knew, said something similar of, “what happened was tragic, but what does it have to do with me”.
And I often suspect, that’s how countries dealt with such situations, to distance itself from the past and move forward. But unfortunately, because of the magnitude of the atrocities, for those living in other countries that pays respect to those who lost their lives and to family members who suffered, these are situations that one can not forget and will never forget.
It’s important to note that while the film features Radmann and team going after various Nazi soldiers, it shows Radmann wanting to go after Joseph Mengele and him working with the Mossad (the National Intelligence Agency of Israel) but also with details of how Adolf Eichmann was captured. For those who want to know more about the trial of Eichmann, will want to watch “Hannah Arendt”, the 2012 film directed by Margarethe von Trotta.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio quality is very good, while special features include an audio commentary, Q&A from the LA Jewish Festival and deleted scenes.
Overall, “Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful and thought-provoking film based on real events of how post-war Germany was trying to move forward from World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime, but how a prosecutor was determined to go after as many Nazi soldiers who were involved in atrocities at Auschwitz, despite pressures for him to give up and quit.
Giulio Ricciarelli’s “Labyrinth of Lies” is recommended!
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