'The Captain of Köpenick' is a true story that could only have happened in Germany, where the authority of a uniform was (and still is?) obeyed without question.
In 1906, an obscure Tilsiter cobbler named Wilhelm Voigt (1849-1922) purchased the second-hand uniform of a Prussian infantry captain. Wearing this, he travelled to the borough of Köpenick and ordered a troop of guardsmen to place themselves under his command. He then declared the town hall to be under military law, ordering the arrest of the mayor and treasurer and confiscating all the funds in the exchequer. (In this version it's 4,000 deutschemarks, a tidy sum.) None of Voigt's orders were questioned, and he got away with the dosh. When he was eventually caught, the German people regarded Voigt's imposture as a jolly hoax that pricked the pomposity of petty bureaucrats. Although Voigt was clearly motivated by unlawful financial gain, he emerged from the affair as a folk hero.
This film is based on a stage adaptation of the original incident; I can't vouch for its accuracy. Some of the incidents here seem a bit far-fetched, but I accept that the original incident happened similarly to what we see here (although surely there weren't so many women involved). The movie is a comedy, and succeeds on that level. I was especially impressed with the performance of Fritz Odemar as the apoplectic treasurer. Still, in one sense this subject is no laughing matter. Let's recall what was the ultimate result of the Germans' penchant for mindless obedience to authority figures. This story was funny in 1931, but a few years later nobody in Germany would be laughing. More as an artefact of its time than for its merits as a comedy, I'll rate this movie 7 out of 10.
4 of 8 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?