Note: I saw this film at the Edmonton International Film Festival, so not sure when or if it will come to a theatre near you.
This German entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards begins in 1958 with the startling revelation that, thirteen years after WWII, most people in Germany still knew nothing about what had happened in Auschwitz. Alexander Fehling stars as Johann Radmann, the young prosecutor whose investigations into allegations of torture and genocide at Auschwitz will result in the first German trial against its own soldiers and the first public awareness of the horrors of the Nazi death camps. (note: Radmann’s character is based on two or three real-life prosecutors)
The title of the film (Labyrinth of Lies) is not a direct translation of the German Im Labyrinth des Schweigens. The German title refers more to a cover-up, an intentional silence about what happened in Auschwitz, than to lies. But Radmann encounters both silence and lies as he investigates the accusations only to find that those he works for don’t want to know about it. After all, hundreds of the men involved have become leaders in German society while others are quietly hiding in the corners. It takes a lot of courage for Radmann to persevere.
It’s a powerful story to take on and Giulio Ricciarelli’s well-made film makes a worthy attempt, though it too often felt like a Hollywood take on the story rather than what a gutsy raw indie film might do with it. And occasionally Labyrinth of Lies gets lost in the many pieces of the story it’s trying to include.
Nevertheless, Labyrinth of Lies is compelling, beautifully-filmed and intelligently written. Fehling is excellent as the innocent young prosecutor and he’s joined by an impressive cast, including Gert Voss in his last performance, all of whom do a great job.
Labyrinth of Lies is a very disturbing film, not just for the obvious reasons but because of the questions that arise about the desperate need for justice/revenge and the complete lack of remorse on the part of the accused. Scary stuff to contemplate.
This haunting film was a festival favourite and gets a solid ***+. My mug is up.