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The year is 1958. The war has been over for thirteen years and the Federal Republic of Germany is not only recovering but even booming. But where are the Nazis? Who has ever heard of the death camps? It looks as if everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds in this land of milk and honey... At least, until the day journalist Thomas Gnielka recognizes in the person of a teacher the former commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp... At least, until Johann Radmann, a young prosecutor, decides to investigate the case... Nobody knows it yet but this is the dawn of a new era. Even if the road to awareness will be long and rocky... Written by
"Labyrinth of Lies" (2014 release from Germany; original title "Im Labyrinth des Schweigens" or "In the Labyrinth of Silence" 122 min.) brings the story of the events leading up to the so-called Frankfurt Auschwitz trials in 1963. As the movie opens, we are told it is "Frankfurt-am-Main, 1958", and we get to know a young prosecutor named Johann Radmann, who is just starting his career, doing traffic violations. But soon he gets (and seizes) the opportunity to look into the case of a Waffen SS soldier who was a commander at Auschwitz and is now teaching in grade school as if nothing ever happened. Radmann soon finds that there is widespread resistance to his efforts to prosecute ex-Nazis. At this point, we are 15 minutes into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this movie is an important reminder that the sentiment in Germany wasn't always what it is nowadays and has been for decades. It appears that after WW II, the entire country went about its business as if nothing had happened, and collectively tries to whitewash Auschwitz from memory. But as Radmann points out, "to remain silent is to poison our country's democracy". So he speaks up. It is an incredible story. Kudos to the movie's producers for bringing us this important historical reminder. Besides the important moral and historical aspects, the movie does a great job portraying what daily life in the late 50s and early 60s was in West Germany. Check out the great looking cars! "Labyrinth of Lies" was Germany's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar nominations, which should give you an idea how well the movie was viewed in its home country (the fact that it didn't get the Oscar nomination doesn't diminish the merits of the movie).
"Labyrinth of Lies" was released over a year ago. I have no idea why it is just now finding its way into US theaters, but better late than never. The movie showed up this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, I figure this won't stick around for long. The Sunday matinée screening where I saw this at was surprisingly well attended, I am happy to report. If you are in the mood for a top-notch quality foreign movie that has a very important lesson and reminder, I urge you to check out "Labyrinth of Lies", be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Labyrinth of Lies" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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