Die Physiker (TV Movie 1964) Poster

(1964 TV Movie)

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Extremely awkward and bizarre, but still has its appeal Warning: Spoilers
"Die Physiker" or "The Physicists" is a West German black-and-white film for the small screen from 1964, so this one is already over half a century old. It is one of the most known career efforts by director Fritz Umgelter and the original work this film is by Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt who apparently was also in charge of the script here. An inspector is ordered to a sanatorium, in which one of the inmates apparently killed a nurse and strangely enough the exact same crime happened a bit earlier at the same place as well when another inmate killed another nurse. So obviously something's rotten. And not much later, a third crime of the exact modus operandi takes place. The victims are strangled every time. Early on, it looks a bit like a detective movie, but the longer it goes, the more it becomes clear that it is not. You could wonder on several occasions if it was really the inmates who committed these horrible crimes or if they are simply used as scapegoats by the head of the institution or perhaps somebody else? It becomes clear very quickly that almost nothing is what it seems in this film. We read it over a decade ago at school and I remember really liking it. i cannot say I ended up liking the film as much sadly, but it was still a fairly decent watch, especially in the first half. The film may also have been a bit too long for its own good at over two hours I believe. The consequence were that there were more than just a few scenes that easily could have been omitted without hurting the film overall, especially in the second half. But the performances (of several very established German actors from back then), especially Therese Giehse elevate the material as well when it is not as its very best. I must say it is not really possible to take this film seriously as a realistic movie, but that's okay. Lets just call it a fantasy crime comedy and from that perspective it is working. There are more than just a few bizarre moments in here and not all may make sense, also the very ending perhaps, but it does not really take away from the quality of the movie overall. Some other aspects do though, but still I will be generous and give this film a thumbs-up. I don't think it is a good idea to watch it for exam preparation if you haven't read the book though. So I think you always should have read the book first and then decide if you want to see the film, at least in this example.
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