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LABYRINTH OF LIES

★★★★

UNCOVERING THE TRUTH BEHIND HUMANITY'S DARKEST MOMENT

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By Charlie David Page
27th March 2016

The Nazis developed a reputation for single-minded determinedness and ruthlessness during the Second World War. Yet despite numerous tales of horrific and abhorrent acts, no other story seems to resonate quite as deeply as that of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Over 70 years on from the shocking and unfathomable events which occurred there, mere mention of the name can send a shiver down your spine.

Take yourself back to a time when the details of Auschwitz were not commonplace. The 1950s in Germany, to be exact. The country is struggling to put the events of World War II behind it, and forge ahead with a new identity. The young and somewhat idealistic public prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) is stuck dealing with traffic offences when journalist Thomas Gnielka (André Szymanski) brings him a story about a former SS member and Auschwitz commander, now working as a teacher - something which is not allowed. Surprised at the indifference of the police and education board over the matter, Radmann works with Gnielka to find out the truth about what happened inside Auschwitz, urged on by Prosecutor General Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss). Rather than finding a handful of people who committed crimes at the camp, the investigation reveals almost everyone who worked there may be guilty. Yet bringing them to justice will be harder than expected, in a country trying to move forward where former Nazis have blended seamlessly back into society.

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This is some very grim material. It's riveting to see the progression of information - much of which we already know today - come to light to the investigators. You hear stories from survivors, and uncover brutal reports of the despicable events which took place. We learn of the work of the now infamous Doctor Josef Mengele, who would inhumanely conduct experiments on prisoners in a way that would earn him the name The Angel of Death. The facts are coolly and methodically handled by Radmann, who carries the weight of these discoveries for as long as possible. Rather, you see it in the reactions from those around him - his secretary Erika Schmitt (Hansi Jochmann) becomes so affected by the witness accounts she has to transcribe she bursts into tears of great sorrow.

Yet there are shades of lightness to this story. Radmann's burgeoning relationship with Marlene Wondrak (Friederike Becht) acts as an escape from the sombre story arc, and even Radmann's methods and techniques as a somewhat naïve prosecutor bring a touch of humour.

You hear stories from survivors, and uncover brutal reports of the despicable events which took place.

The film is held together by the fantastic work of Alexander Fehling. His portrayal of Radmann shows the growth of a man as he uncovers the truth about his country and himself, in many cases things he doesn't want to know, yet still he demands justice. It's a very balanced and controlled performance, with the stony exterior slowly chipped away as the burden on him becomes too great. He's supported fantastically by Szymanski and Becht, who are delightful to watch in every scene. Although a small role, Jochmann as the secretary is brilliantly nuanced, acting as the audience's gauge throughout the film. Also excellent is Johannes Krisch, who plays Simon Kirsch, an Auschwitz survivor who lost his wife and twin daughters to the camp.

8,000 men worked at Auschwitz. All of them were considered as suspects. A case of this scale would terrify even the most experienced prosecutors, but nothing could stand in the way of Johann Radmann discovering the truth. Radmann himself is a fictional character - he's something of an amalgamation of the real-life junior prosecutors Joachim Kugler and Georg Friedrich Vogel who worked the case. Besides this convenience, everything presented in 'Labyrinth Of Lies' is an inexplicably true tale. It took a handful of men standing up against their own country and defying a seemingly impenetrable wall of silence for the world to learn the truth about the reprehensible events of Auschwitz - a vital lesson to ensure history does not repeat itself.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 31/03/2016
RUN TIME: 1h 58m
CAST: Alexander Fehling
André Szymanski
Friederike Becht
Johannes Krisch
Gert Voss
Hansi Jochmann
DIRECTOR: Giulio Ricciarelli
WRITERS: Elizabeth Bartel
Giulio Ricciarelli
PRODUCERS: Uli Putz
Sabine Lamby
Jakob Claussen
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