About Tatort Der glückliche Tod" (Crimescene: The satisfied Death") first aired October 5th, 2008.
On the banks of the river Rhine near the German city of Ludwigshafen a partial-combusted female body is found. Ludwigshafener homicide-lieutenants Lena Odenthal (Ulrike Folkerts) and Mario Kopper soon identify her as Sabine Brodag, an activist of a euthanasia-outfit in Frankfurt upon Main. Due to the clear legal restriction of euthanasia in Germany, that company connects clients to similar organisations in the near European neighborhood (here: Switzerland), where "assisted dying on request" for mortally ill people is legal. The issue of euthanasia is shown with all it's difficulties and controversial motivations and this episode thereby shows once more why "tatort" is that critically well-acclaimed in Germany.
Outstanding to me was the performance of junior-actress Stella Kunkat as Julia Frege. Julia is suffering of cystic fibrosis and has only days left. In one of the strongest scenes the nine-year-old girl has to trade with her approximately equally old brother Nils about her favourite puppets. Nils has just begun to understand that his sister won't be there for long anymore, but isn't yet fully aware what that truly means. Julia does and Stella Kunkat's eyes show the struggle between that cold knowledge and her warm love to her clueless brother. Or in another scene when Julia after a harsh coughing-attack whispers to her mother Katja, that " I'm through fighting..." and begs to be let gone. Young miss Kunkat's play belongs to the most emotionalizing moments in recent years "tatort"-productions. Her name oughta be well-reminded!
Susanne Lothar plays Julia's mother Katja, her face reveals the years at the doorstep of a nervous breakdown.
Lt. Odenthal: "How can you just stand all that?" Katja Frege:"I don't."
The situation gets out of hand when Katja tries to force Heymann (Frank Giering), another employee of the company for a lethal dose for her daughter, openly trying to blackmail him. Heymann, whose wife is highly pregnant and who recently got threatened and dog-attacked by a relative of a deceased client, already got into the investigative focus. The observational activities, the stalkings, the attacks, his fragile marriage and at last the pressure from Katja Frege result in open assault and violence against the desperate woman.
Julia's passing-scene at last with all the tragic events we took to know through the episode as connected to it- is performed and filmed that despairing, that I was close to switching off (a compliment).
Odenthal and Kopper are the only roommates among all the "tatort"-buddies and therefore have a special relationship, but make no mistake: actress Ulrike Folkerts is a declared lesbian and also her character Lena has been vaguely revealed as such, when in one of the recent Ludwigshafener "tatort"-episodes she was briefly attracted by a lesbian suspect. Folkert's anyhow once mentioned that she wouldn't consider to reflect her sexual nature on Lena too much because it a) would only distract and b) wouldn't matter too much anyway to bear any real dramaturgical value. True, it doesn't matter. But it shows that Mario's and Lena's relation is of a more unique nature than that of average friends, colleagues and roommates where one day the option of romance or sex might put it at stake. That way, both come with contrary positions and emotions about euthanasia to the case and, by each others personal affection to the tragic events, see their friendship strengthened at the end, folding the legal discussions but without words- agreeing about the essential questions that came along with it: life, death, comfort, dignity, empathy, decisions and whose moral right it is to make them.
An extra-mention goes to the tasty and sensible selection of music-tracks that support some of the scenes and work out better for the emotionalisation than a usual background-score (I spotted an excerpt of "About her" by Malcolm MacLaren, as known from "Kill Bill 2"), closing the case with a cover-version of Leonhard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Good choice...
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