Gordon Gecko and Daniel Plainfield had a love child in Germany
Das Schwein" (The Swine") is a TV-film divided into three parts, that, as a synonym for all things foul and rotten in post-WW2 Germany, follows the rise and fall of arch-crook Stefan Stolze (Götz George). Stolze, his mother a struggling theatre actress, the father supposedly lost during the war, is a boy who tries to have it easy in live: rather than studying and working, he relies in his cunning and ruthlessness to further himself. Spurned by a girl that he had fallen in love with and, being born fatherless and a "bastard", Stolze vows an eternal enmity against the female gender. When he's caught stealing from his schoolmates, he pursues the easy living, working as a pimp and ending up in prison, where he cons a volatile inmate Korda (who had just saved his life), who's company he steals and who's wife Stolze seduces. Stolze also seduces Alice van Lueck, the impressionable daughter of a rich businessman; wooing, marrying and cheating her with her best friend during his wedding night.
Ten years later, Stolze cons his father-in-law out of his business, managing, through false accusations, that the aging businessman ends up in prison. Disillusioned with his wife, by now an alcoholic, he tells her about his affair with her best friend; Alice, drunk and suicidal, takes a ride under the influence, ending in a fatal car-accident. Having achieved his goal and being the head of a company, Stolze now seduces the beautiful wife of Gallery-owner Harald Curtius, Sybille, whom Stolze has survelleiled by a private detective (Curtius turns out to be homosexual, information which Stolze unsuccessfully attempts to use to get into Sybille's favour). Aware of her husband's homosexuality, Sybille agrees to have an affair with Stolze though refuses to divorce her husband. In the meantime, Stolzes father Bertels reappears, not having died in the war like Stolzes mother had said but rather had left her after discovering her pregnancy. Seemingly with the blessing of his son, Bertel and Stolzes mother reunite.
The final episode takes place in the 1990's, during the time of Germany's reunification: Stolze is profiting from the bankrupt economy of East-Germany, conning a bank out of Millions and turning his father Bertel in as scapegoat; to avoid prison, Bertel has to hide in South-America, where he will eventually dies in poverty. Stolzes mother suffers from a sever stroke, her final days spent alone in an old-age home. Having discovered that Sybille's husband is suffering from Aids, Stolze finally convinces her to divorce and marry him, while at the same time seducing the under aged Rita, daughter of his best friend Lutz. He manages to get the girl addicted to cocaine, using her addiction to get sexual favours. Eventually he grows tired of Rita, giving her money and to sending her to an unknown location, causing Lutz to become alcoholic and to loose his job. Stolze is now at the pinnacle of his career, receiving the medal of honour for his economical achievements. At the same time, one of the run-down factories that he had taken over in eastern Germany burns down to the ground.
Though most of the acting is solid and the direction is solid for TV-standards, all three parts are carried by Götz George. Essentially, George plays a psychopath, a true "swine", like a mix of Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood" and Gordon Gecko in "Wall Street". He's completely ruthless, free of empathy, amoral and willing to cause death and misery if it serves his purpose, while hardly ever dropping the facade of the honest self-made man. George has at times been compared to Sean Connery: not only does he still represent the concept of manliness well into his old-age, but like Connery, George had been typecast, mainly in his role as proletarian macho-cop Schimanski. Both actors managed to break the mould and have since their typecasting often reinvented themselves. George had since had his finest moments, convincingly playing psychopathic yet charismatic characters ("Der Totmacher", "Der Sandmann") and "Das Schwein" seems a role cut out for him.
One of the film's few weaknesses is the biological age of the protagonist: Götz George was well in his 50's during the filming and often the age is showing, especially when George has to play a pimp in his 20's. Nevertheless he's able to pull it off, growing with the role as the show progresses and we get acquainted with the character of Stefan Stolze. There's nothing likable about this character and although the audience is constantly on the lookout for some redeeming factor or hints of humanity within the man, no such factors or hints appear. But what could easily have been played as one-dimensional, is supported by Georges skill and charisma. Indeed, most people would have to admit that they would let themselves get conned by Stefan Stolze if he came knocking on their door with a business proposal and those who don't are probably lying.
Seeing the series as a four hour long film, one has to admit that there are lengthy episodes and that, as mentioned, there is little character development in the protagonist. In essence (and also judging by most TV-productions that are currently shown), it is among the more captivating of mini-series, well worth eight points out of ten.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?