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Fictionalized account of Jürgen Bartsch, a German boy who became notorious in the 1960's after his conviction for the serial killings and sexual molestation of a number of young German boys. Told partly as recreation and partly as taped confession. Written by
An Excellent Examination of the Darkness of Madness
Kai S. Peck is one courageous Director! He has created a very substantial and quite disturbing film about an actual bizarre serial killer and through the statements and letters of his subject and a book by Paul Moor and his astute directing he has been able to step over the sensationalism of his subject and open the door into the mind of a very ill person.
THE CHILD I NEVER WAS (originally titled EIN LEBEN LANG KURZE HOSEN TRAGEN) is frighteningly based on fact. From 1962 through 1966 a fifteen-year-old boy named Jurgen Bartsch tortured, murdered, and then sexually molested four young German boys. This infamous serial killer is first introduced in a black and white sequence of Jurgen as a 20 year old (Tobias Schenke) in prison for his crimes. He frankly talks about his crimes, acknowledging their evil, but at the same time seeks to uncover his own motivations for having performed such deeds. Through a series of flashbacks we see Jurgen as a child and as a 15 year old (Sebastian Urgendowsky) and discover he was adopted by a couple who are bipolar parents - Gertrud (Ulrike Bliefert) and Gerhard (Walter Gontermann) Bartsch. Their parenting is brutally bounced from feigned kindness to flailing mistreatments. They do not allow Jurgen to have friends, to socialize, to have any interests. When Jurgen begins to get in touch with his sexuality, they foster care him and seek professional advice for his sickness of homosexuality.
Young Jurgen is unable to relate to anyone and he yearns for friends. He discovers a cave where he can escape form his ugly world and fantasize about many things, including sexual fantasies about boys 'ages 8 through 14'. Gradually he gives in to his compulsion to seduce boys into his cave where he tortures them, eviscerates them, and once they are dead he has sexual acting out with them. At one point he seeks a priest's (Jürgen Christoph Kamcke) confession booth seeking absolution, but the priest only tells him that he must confess to the police and devote his life to charity. Eventually during his fourth episode of his serial madness he leaves his victim bound, disturbed that this boy actually seems to return Jurgen's bizarre sexual advances, and when he returns to the cave the boy has escaped. Jurgen is captured and imprisoned.
The way in which the film resolves is actually touching in that from surprise confessions we grow to understand these serial murders on a certain level. To reveal these facts would hamper the suspense of the film. Suffice it to say that here is a sophisticated film unafraid to enter the darkest regions of a young man's mind and in doing so heightens our awareness of the fine line between response to personal abuse and madness. The cast is extraordinarily fine. Grady Harp
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