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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is based on the great novel of the same name by Austrian writer Leo Perutz. The book, which features elements of a supernatural thriller, is a great study about the repression of guilt. (The story deals with a mysterious series of "suicides" among artists in Vienna in the early 20th century; the main character, Freiherr von Yosch, is accused of being involved in the events. While he seems apathetic, a friend of his tries to find out the reason for the suicides and prove that von Yosch is innocent) Director Michael Kehlmann (who did some excellent literary adaptations in the sixties) changes the final twist of the book in a way, that is just ridiculous - the whole story loses it's ambiguity and depth. The final product is neither a thriller nor a convincing study of the psychological hell the main character goes through. Instead we get a film that doesn't use the possibilities of the medium, not even by television standards of the time - Kehlmann directs it like a stage play (he actually was a stage director too) with long monologues. Some of the actors tend to overact, which doesn't help either. This was made in 1990, before films with twist endings became so popular. But instead of being ahead of it's time, it is stuck in TV-aesthetics of the seventies. A wasted opportunity, which at least provides good production design. Maybe the novel (which was translated as "The Master of the Day of Judgement") gets a better treatment some day.
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