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The movie depicts the final days of Willy Brandt as the chancellor of Germany in 1974. It shows how his advisor Guillaume was responsible for Brandt's fall and how political interests by other colleague further lead to the end of Brandt's career. Written by
The film Im Schatten der Macht describes the events, that in 1974 forced the German Chancellor Willy Brandt to abdicate. In Europe the social-democrat leader Willy Brandt was extremely popular among the common people, just like Francois Mitterrand in France, Harold Wilson in Great Britain, Olaf Palme in Sweden, Bruno Kreisky in Austria, and Joop den Uyl in the Netherlands. Of course it was mainly the spirit of the time, that allowed these men to unfold their best qualities. Everything seemed possible. Americans will remember Willy Brandt as the burgomaster of Berlin and as the initiator of the Ost-Politik, which reduced the danger of a nuclear war. However, in the seventies the optimism was shattered by several global recessions. The film Im Schatten der Macht describes how in this changing atmosphere Brandt became the victim of the east-west espionage. In 1972 Brandt had appointed Guenter Guillaume, a dedicated member of the SPD (party), as his new personal assistant. Soon the suspicion arose that Guillaume was actually spying for the German Democratic Republic (East-Germany). Brandt could not believe the accusations, and a definitive proof was lacking. Nevertheless after another year Guillaume was arrested, and readily confessed. Brandts position came under siege, because he had not shielded Guillaume from secret information, and because Guillaume had facilitated Brandts alleged extra-marital affairs, thus making Brandt vulnerable to political blackmail. The story itself is almost trivial, but director Oliver Storz manages to express the personal drama and the emotional devastation, when such self-centered men are expelled from power. Storz shows how the delicate balance of power within the social-democratic SPD and within the coalition with the liberal FDP is slowly shifting. The coalition aspect is perhaps difficult to understand for Americans, who live in a two-party state with a homogeneous government. The main threats to Brandts position come from the FDP minister Genscher (responsible for national security) and from SPD minister Helmut Schmidt, who is seen as Brandts eventual successor. Herbert Wehner, the leader of the parliamentary SPD fraction, plays the pivotal role. We see that Brandts fate is determined more by personal relationships than by the actual facts. When the smear campaign unfolds, Wehnert promises Brandt his support, but he does not ask Brandt to remain in power. Brandt, realizing that his position may become untenable, decides to abdicate voluntarily, in favor of Schmidt. In doing so he can at least remain the chairman of the party. The crucial question is of course, why the support of the once popular Brandt started to erode. The narrative seems to follow Brandts own view, that the affair had damaged his reputation. However, this opinion is debatable. In the memoirs of Schmidt the Guillaume affair is called a banality. Schmidt believes that the real reason for Brandts removal was the economic policy. Brandt persevered in the policy of the sixties, but this became unpayable in the seventies. Schmidt was more amenable to austerity measures, and therefore gained the support of the Wehner group. Brandt requested to Schmidt: "Don't say that you take over a bad business". Several days later, the new chancellor Schmidt said: "The German Federation is on the verge of a bankruptcy". Of interest are also the motives of East- Germany, since Brandt had previously sought their reconciliation. Why did Guillaume confess? Personally I think that the Bolcheviks didn't care. They would do anything to damage the reputation of the "rotten capitalists". At times the film is somewhat over-dramatic, for instance in the scene where for minutes Brandt stands on a cliff, and stares into the turbulent billows that bash the rocks. Nevertheless it is still functional, and I can definitely recommend this film.
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