Labyrinth of Lies (2014) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
36 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
"To remain silent is to poison our democracy"
paul-allaer25 October 2015
"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!
23 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Superb German film on the man who put the Nazi's on trial for Auschwitz
t-dooley-69-38691630 June 2016
Based on the true story of a young Public Prosecutor from Frankfurt named Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling – 'Inglorious Basterds'). He encounters a survivor of Auschwitz and a journalist who want to bring the perpetrators of the atrocities that took place there to trial. The problem is that Germany seems to not want to rake over the coals of the past and there are former Nazi's everywhere who just don't care.

What follows are the travails he and his friends go through in order to do something, try to build a case and wake the German people from their wilful apathy towards the war. We also have his personal life and that of those around him and who are swept up in the investigation.

This is an extremely well made film, the story is completely gripping and I loved the period detail too. It does not sugar coat what took place but is also not horrific in terms of the graphic abuse that sadly occurred, especially at the hands of Mengele and co. It is very moving in places and features some truly excellent performances especially Fehling and his love interest Friedrike Becht ('Hannah Arendt')who plays Marlene – it is in German with very good subtitles and runs for 123 minutes and is one that is very easy to recommend indeed.
22 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Historically interesting, weak subplots unfortunately
Horst_In_Translation27 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Im Labyrinth des Schweigens" or "Labyrinth of Lies" is director Giulio Ricciarelli's first feature film after 4 short films in the last ten years. So, looking at how he is relatively new to the genre, the result is not bad at all especially given Ricciarelli also wrote the film together with Elisabath Bartel. Actually, he has been more of an actor so far, just like his wife Lisa Martinek. She also plays a small part in here. The main part is played by Alexander Fehling, namely a prosecutor (Radmann) 15 years after World War II. Fehling is one of Germany's rising stars and you may have seen him in "Goethe! not too long ago. The role was pretty baity and all in all Fehling did a good job with it. My favorite performance, however, comes from the recently deceased Gert Voss, who plays a bit of a father figure and mentor to Fehling's character, at the very moment Radmann loses faith in his real father.

Prosecutor Radmann looks into German history and tries to catch those responsible for the crimes during World War II. Obviously, there is also lots of morale in there. Can they be punished for being in the party? What did they have to do to be really responsible for what happened and face consequences? Wasn't everybody involved somehow? Including the central character's family? Why haven't they done anything to stop the tragedy? There were a couple good scenes in this film. I liked the reactions from Radmann's secretary and also the one-word-swearing from his colleague right after one interrogation. Maybe my favorite moment of the film and I quite liked Johann von Bülow's performance here. The historic references were interesting too and I was surprised to see how so many people did not know anything about Auschwitz, apart from these who obviously did not want to know.

Unfortunately, there are also some criticisms. The ending was too heroic for me and too forced as a happy end I thought. Okay, you could bring up the excuse, this is how it happened in real, but somehow I did not like it. It would have been nice to watch the filmmakers take the risk and end the film with the lead character failing as we see him as a private prosecutor together with the lawyer who defended the accused Nazi criminal earlier on when he called his acts human as he was not the one deciding who gets killed, but who shall live. Apart from that, basically all the romantic scenes felt really weak to me. The problem was not the acting there, it was really the writing. The first meeting where the female main character is at court is not good and the ending with the two and the jacket metaphor I thought was downright cringeworthy. Also the scene with Radmann's mother felt randomly rushed in as this relationship remained completely unexamined.

This is not a perfect movie at all, sometimes the dialogs are excellent, sometimes the exact opposite, but everybody with an interest in German history or German films in general can give it a chance. If you liked it, let me recommend you an older film with a similar topic: "Das schreckliche Mädchen" / "The Nasty Girl", an Oscar nominee in the Foreign Language Film category from roughly 25 years ago.
24 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Crime and punishment
rubenm4 May 2015
Nowadays, the word Auschwitz has become a synonym for the worst kind of human evil. But there was a time when, at least in Germany, nobody knew the word, let alone what happened there. In the years after the war, German society wanted to forget everything about this terrible period, including the atrocities committed.

'Im Labyrinth des Schweigens' (In the Labyrinth of Silence) shows how this period came to an end. A journalist presses charges against a former Auschwitz camp commander, who is now a school teacher. A prosecutor starts an investigation, but his efforts are obstructed by all kinds of procedures. It is clear that most Germans don't want to be confronted with the mass murders committed by their fellow compatriots. In one scene, the prosecutor asks his young colleagues what the word Auschwitz means to them. None of them come up with an answer.

The film clearly shows how complex the past was for post-war Germany. Lots of people had been a member of the National Socialist Party, without being a nazi by conviction. Some became a nazi because it was convenient to be part of the ruling power-base. The prosecutor learns that even some people who are very close to him, were on the wrong side of history. Still, he is convinced that the men who committed war crimes should be punished.

This is an interesting story about an unknown period in the German history. Unfortunately, the film maker decided to include a cheesy love story in the script. The prosecutor's love affair is distracting, unnecessary and predictable. Towards the end, there are too many side stories and subplots, and the film starts dragging on. At the same time, there are some very nice creative scenes. I particularly liked the scene without words, when the prosecutor starts interviewing the witnesses from the concentration camps. Small gestures and facial expressions show, better than any dialogue, the horror these people must have gone through.
35 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Telling the stories
drjgardner9 October 2015
Labyrinth of Lies is a 2014 German film about the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials that took place between 1963 and 1965. What distinguished the Frankfurt trails from all the other trials was that they were based on German law and because they happened 20+ years after the war, they were limited to murder charges. Several Nazis had been tried previously but they were convicted under international law and occurred right after the war.

The film begins in 1958 as a young prosecutor Johann Radmann (marvelously played by Alexander Fehling) is attracted to the case by a reporter (Andre Szymanski), and given support by the federal Attorney General (Gert Voss who is simply riveting). They must work against the denials, cover-ups and vested interests that try to keep the issue quiet.

The film gives you a real feel of the late 50s, and the photography and music support an excellent cast who do wonderful work. In a film about the holocaust, there is a tendency to shock, but director Giulio Ricciarelli skillfully shows that less is more.

There are some places where the film seems more like a docudrama, and some issues (e.g., Radmann's relationship with his mother) are only hinted at. But overall it's an excellent film, and while it may not be an equivalent to "Judgment at Nuremberg", it is well worth viewing.
21 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
MikeyB179327 October 2015
This is definitely one of the more powerful holocaust films. It doesn't have any visual images of the holocaust. It's about the aftermath. To bring the perpetrators on trial, the effects on a Germany (or West Germany) in total denial, of the children of the Nazi era and their latent guilt of what their parents may have done or did. One feels what it was to grow up German during this period of the late 1950's.

It's very emotional performance by Alexander Fehling. We feel his anguish as he learns the scale of his country's complicity of what happened – and his anger and frustration at the lies to circumvent it all. And this is told at the personal level – it is individuals whose lives were shattered and it is individuals who did the destroying.

Unique and impressive.
27 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
German Prosecutor's quest to bring former Auschwitz functionaries to justice proves fairly gripping
Turfseer27 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Labyrinth of Lies deals with a pretty much forgotten chapter in German history—the 1963 Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. State prosecutors in the German city of Frankfurt brought former mid-and-low level functionaries of the Auschwitz death camp to trial despite opposition from Nazi sympathizers and an apathetic public. Perhaps the most surprising thing one learns from the film is just how ignorant the general population was of Auschwitz and the Nazi era when the story begins in 1958.

The protagonist is a composite character, Johann Radmann, based on three real-life prosecutors, played by the popular German actor, Alexander Fehling. When we're first introduced to Radmann, he has a low level job in the prosecutor's officer handling traffic violations. His by-the-book demeanor immediately becomes apparent when he refuses to allow a pretty Fraulein, to pay a reduced fine for a traffic infraction.

Through the efforts of Tomas Gnielka, a journalist obsessed with Germany's embrace of Nazism, Radmann soon gets wind of a former Auschwitz guard now working as a school teacher. Radmann is rebuffed by the lead prosecutor in the office who disparages him for taking an interest in the former Auschwitz guard—in the lead prosecutor's view, this will only open up a can of worms. But a higher-up, Fritz Bauer— the Attorney General-- is sympathetic toward efforts to uncover the crimes of the Nazi past, and appoints Radmann as the special prosecutor responsible for prosecuting those responsible for crimes at the death camp.

Radmann gets his first leads from Simon Kirsch, an Auschwitz survivor, introduced to him by Gnielka. Kirsch is uncooperative at first but later, along with other survivors, provides important testimony that will aid Radmann in his quest to bring various Auschwitz functionaries to justice. Radmann also digs up evidence from files at an US Army base. Director Giulio Ricciarelli does well in chronicling the extreme state of denial many Germans were in as they grappled with the legacy of Nazi horrors.

There are also sympathizers who do everything they can (including throwing a rock with a swastika on it, through Radmann's window), to derail him from finishing his job. You would never guess that the actual Auschwitz participants who now have ordinary jobs were stone-cold killers, just a little over a decade before.

Labyrinth of Lies gets bogged down when Radmann becomes obsessed with tracking down the notorious "Butcher of Auschwitz", Dr. Josef Mengele, in spite of orders to desist from his boss Bauer. Radmann's efforts to capture Mengele prove fruitless, despite having learned that Mengele has been returning to Germany from South America to visit his relatives. Since we already know that Mengele was never captured, there is very little point in chronicling Radmann's unsuccessful quest for a good part of the second half of the narrative.

Radmann has his "dark moment" of the second Act, when he becomes overly self-righteous in holding his fellow Germans to account for their indifference during the Nazi years. It turns out that Gnielka, the fanatically anti-Nazi journalist, was actually a 17 year old worker at the death camp; and Redmann's girlfriend, Marlene, has been making profits in selling clothes to the wives of former Nazis. At one point Radmann quits the prosecutor's office and signs on with a hot-shot attorney but eventually sees the light and agrees to finish his prosecutorial duties.

Labyrinth of Lies is a valuable film in that it paints an indelible portrait of a society coming to grips with its dark past. While not everything works in the film (the Mengele sequence is particularly overdone), the exploration of this largely forgotten chapter in German history, is most welcome.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The price of silence and denial....
s327616930 September 2015
Labyrinth of Lies is an insight into the price of silence and denial.

The silence in this case surrounds the atrocities committed by ordinary people at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. The silence is an enforced one where people who dare raise their voice in opposition face denial and even condemnation.

The team of German lawyers operating out of what was, at the time, West Germany, face silent opposition that extends to people within the criminal justice system. Their efforts to investigate the Auschwitz war crimes meet with objections that, typically, try to explain away the atrocities as an unfortunate by product of war, that should be forgotten.

This film is based on a true story and its worth noting up front its a harrowing watch. Much of what you hear will stay with you long after the film has ended. That said, it also affirms the need for us all to refuse to stay silent in the face of hatred and political extremism.

Its a very relevant film too, because many of the political and racial attitudes found in this film don't go away. Indeed, as we are seeing today, systems of apartheid and Fascism are still very much in currency.

This film is in German so it does have subs. That said, its so capably directed, the acting of such a high standard and its subject presented in such a simple but deeply moving manner, that this really does not matter. A superb film everyone should see. Ten out of ten from me.
16 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
compelling history needs more drama
SnoopyStyle2 April 2017
It's 1958 Frankfurt, West Germany. Johann Radmann is a young by-the-books prosecutor toiling in traffic court and believing his father to be anti-Nazi. Reporter Thomas Gnielka brings the case of Charles Schulz, a teacher suspected of being a Nazi guard in Auschwitz. Nobody cares about what happened there and actively ignores the collective Nazi past. He starts a relationship with Marlene Wondrak. Gnielka introduces him to camp survivor Simon Kirsch. Radmann starts digging into the past and building a case against many. His main obsession is camp doctor Josef Mengele who experimented on the prisoners.

The history is very compelling. However, the story lacks danger or intensity. It needs some additional drama. There is some professional and personal drama but none of it is that intense. The production and acting is first rate. It is a very compelling watch although there are no big surprises.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Grand (dis)Illusion
GManfred16 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It is 1958. Fledgling lawyer Johann Radmann hears of an instance that took place some time in the past during WWII, and of which he has little knowledge. Seems a man complained about abuse of some sort during detention in the war, but the issue was dropped due to lack of interest. Radmann, however, is interested and decides to investigate. He is soon overwhelmed by a mountain of facts in which few people are interested or talk about. War Crimes is the topic, and Radmann can't find anyone among contemporaries who has even heard of Auschwitz.

"Labyrinth Of Lies" is a story about truth, not distorted but obscured or ignored. Life in post-war Germany did not include talk or discussion of wartime concentration camps, since it was old news and the war is over; everyone was doing what they had to do. Radmann is astonished at what he finds and at the magnitude of the atrocity, and whom it encompasses, and at the resistance he encounters.

The film is well-done in all respects and told in a semi-documentary aspect that lacks a sanguine feel, as a storyteller detached from the gruesome material. Nevertheless, it is an absorbing film and revelatory for those of us who have wondered how life transpired in Germany after the war. It is the second German-language Holocaust-related film I have seen recently, and personally I thought "Phoenix" was a better picture.
10 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A new portrayal of a very important matter for Germany's and the world's history
alexandraherbersdorf27 March 2015
The English title "Labyrinth of Lies" should rather be a direct translation from the German title which is more among the lines "Labyrinth of Silence". And that's precisely what the main character is facing in his quest of uncovering the crimes Germany committed during WWII.

This film poses a not very often portrayed link in the chain of events during and following WWII. People in Germany are used to dealing openly with the crimes committed during WWII to the point where the time when it was not like that is barley remembered. It deals with the topic in a very non sensational way. Awful crimes are not portrayed too visually and yet the film manages to transmit the severity of those. It also explores the German people's psyche after the war and the motivation behind covering up what happened.

The cinematography is quite nice and the music fits the time and setting.

A downside to the film is its romantic relationship between the main character and his love interest. It was hard to connect to their relationship and to her. Her relevance for the story was not very clear as well. Also the screenplay felt off at times. Whenever a character had a monologue it was very catching and filled with emotions one could connect to. Unfortunately it failed in delivering meaningful conversations. They were most of the time superficial and felt stiff.

All in all it was a very interesting film with a relevant message but quite a few downsides in delivery. It feels like the big screen is a little too big for this film but it is quite a nice TV film and a good starter to get into post war history.
30 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Sometimes We Need to Look Within Ourselves
Hitchcoc13 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In 1958, the German people had very little knowledge of the death camps of World War II. A Jew, whose children were experimented upon, demands to be heard but is ignored by the legal system. A young lawyer hears his pleas but doesn't know what he can do. When he proposes action, he is ignored or scolded by those that would be of the most help. He finds a small group of people that are working on the cases in the camps. He wants the big fish, Joseph Mengele, and forgets about those who were in the SS or who acted like savages in the camps. This is about a man who is so driven that he can't come to grips with the idea that most of the country were Nazis, including those close to him. He get very emotional in his all-or-nothing quest and alienates people. He even dismisses the children of Nazis, even if they had nothing to do with anything. He is angry with all of Germany but doesn't ask why this all happened. This is a film about seeing what is most important in our lives--what can be changed and what can't. The ultimate trial proved to be one of the most important in modern history.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
In a post-war world of denial, a young German goes after war criminals
blanche-230 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Labyrinth of Lies" from 2014 is a German film about a young attorney, Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) (a combination of three people in reality) in 1958 who decides to go after the bakers, the teachers, the everyday workers who were enforcers of some kind at Auschwitz, a place not many people, including Radmann, had heard of. And when he learns from a friend (Johannes Krisch) who was there how he lost his twin girls (a gutwrenching scene) Johann becomes obsessed with Josef Mengele and is determined to bring him to justice.

His mentor and boss, the attorney general Fritz Bauer (a real person) has wanted to do this for years and puts Radmann in charge of the investigation. Bauer is played by the late Gert Voss, who was obviously quite ill when he made this movie. Bauer is a solid presence who knows too well the difficulties his young charge will face and tries to help him.

We've seen the basic premise of this film many times- the young, idealistic man taking on the bureaucracy and the stonewallers who insist that they need to "draw the line" regarding the war experience and forget about it. "They were soldiers," "It was war," he is told. But did being soldiers and being at war mean that they treated their prisoners sadistically, starved them, shot them for minor offenses, and herded them into gas chambers?

For the young people, underneath it all is a fear as they learn about the atrocities - what was their fathers' involvement in the war? Is it true that nearly everyone was a member of the Nazi Party? Radmann finds this unacceptable, not realizing that being a member of the party in no way meant you accepted their principles, you just didn't have a choice.

One interesting aspect of the film was that while some atrocities were described, nothing was shown, and somehow it was all the more devastating.

The film had one big problem, and that was the romantic subplot that did not contribute at all to the movie and, in fact, cluttered it.

It took the Germans quite a while to accept what happened, although deep down I think many suspected and were uneasy. Radmann believes, "To remain silent is to poison our democracy." I suppose it's a bit like trying to live a normal life after an unacknowledged trauma happens. At some point, one must face it.

The acting is emotional and powerful -- Fehling does a nice job of going from an attorney dealing with traffic violations to a passionate man who wants justice. All of the acting is excellent.

Someone on this board said that Phoenix was a better film about post-World War II in Germany. It is a better film but quite different from "Labyrinth of Lies." It deals with the immediate aftermath of World War II. It is much more involving - but I give Labyrinth of Lies high marks.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An illuminating piece of the historical puzzle and part of a nation's prolonged self-atonement.
CineMuseFilms13 April 2016
Holocaust stories from Schindler's List (1993) to Son of Saul (2015) penetrate our emotional defences by dragging us right into the horror zone. In Labyrinth of Lies (2014) we are spared this entirely because the horror is of a different kind. The focus is on a nation in denial, desperate to block the collective memories of the generation responsible and prevent the following one from ever knowing. The historical timeframe depicted is critical to grasping the power of this story. Set in 1958 Germany, thirteen years after the war, the economy is booming but the nation's older generation struggle with guilt and anger while the young have not even heard of Auschwitz. Produced in Germany, this film is an illuminating piece of the historical puzzle and part of a nation's prolonged self-atonement.

The storyline is linear and uncomplicated. A journalist recognises a former Nazi commander of Auschwitz now working as a schoolteacher, but he cannot elicit any interest from public prosecutors. He befriends young lawyer Johann Radmann who processes parking fines but is desperate to take on serious cases. Despite ridicule from colleagues he is made lead investigator and gradually learns about the secret killing factories of Auschwitz. The labyrinth he encounters is one of silence and lies, as large numbers of public servants and others in positions of power were former members of the Nazi Party and many were morally complicit in Hitler's Final Solution. Along the way, he becomes the obsessive hunter as the investigation keeps getting bigger until it is all- consuming. A romantic sub-story is awkwardly woven into the plot both to humanise Radmann and show the destructive impact that the investigation has on his life. The filming and sets convey the period with authenticity, and the directing is tight although the script is heavy. It takes almost the entire film to expose the full-scale truth, and the results of the investigations are dealt with swiftly as a cinematic necessity.

No doubt some people watch Holocaust films for entertainment, but many more do so searching for understanding of this extraordinary period of history. Labyrinth of Lies is important because it fills the gap between war's end in 1945 and the world's slow awakening to what happened at Auschwitz. In particular, it explains how the truth was kept from young Germans oblivious to what their parents did in the war and shows powerful hands on the blanket of silence. Like Spotlight (2015), the story starts by looking at the tip of an iceberg that grew until it overwhelmed a nation and it maintains an engaging thriller quality to the end.
12 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
In the maze of bodged storytelling
Karl Self17 May 2015
In Germany, particularly tricky historical scenarios are seen as ideal stomping grounds for budding directors. This has to do with the labyrinthine system of public film subsidies, which tend to favour movies that deal with important and worthwhile subjects. Ideally Germany's notorious semi-recent history.

The result is often something like Im Labyrinth des Schweigens, in which bloody murder is given the soap opera treatment. The story of how grizzled chief public prosecutor Fritz Bauer prosecuted some of the murderers of the Auschwitz concentration camp is replaced by a cheesy tale of a handsome, young and naive attorney stumbling on the largest crime in history.
23 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Different POV...and it's very interesting
conroymalcolm7 March 2016
For years I've been watching films from the "Allies" point of view and I never thought of the German point of view or I just assumed German people knew of the atrocities committed by their fellow men.

Its amazing and heartbreaking to know that Germans actually didn't know or chose to not believe what the Nazis were doing to the Jews during WWII.

We were made to believe also that all the Nazis were living in hiding after WWII, when some of them were actually living in relative comfort and free from scrutiny, among some of the people they tortured.

Labyrinth of Lies is the film that gives us a look of how the Germans were actually living in denial for years after the war and how some of the Nazis that committed war crimes were living their normal lives as if nothing had happened.

Very interesting film and very easy to understand if you know the history.
10 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Finding your way out of the maze
kosmasp23 September 2015
Things seem dated and the behavior in this movie almost feels like it. But there was a time where people seemed to want to forget rather than face certain things in public. Speak about cruelties makes things real, rather than just saying it's a story. But just the fact, that people were talking about things happening, remembering them (for better or worse) made it personal.

And while the movie is not really surprising in its structure or where it's heading, it's still manages to build some tension (character secrets and values and more things that are revealed along the main story/themes). Never forget and never repeat ... but is this problem/issue that easy to overcome?
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Germany explores its troubled past yet again
lucasversantvoort6 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It's always fascinating to see how WWII still lives on. The question of remembering vs letting bygones be bygones is still as relevant as ever. It seems like every year or so another film on the Holocaust is released. All the more interesting then when it's Germany releasing such a film. Im Labyrinth des Schweigens takes a (for me at least) little explored subsection of postwar Germany, the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials that started in 1963.

Johann Radmann is a typical protagonist: young and ambitious; he's also a lawyer. Besides the fact he, like many of his countrymen, is oblivious to the horrors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust is his only character flaw. When an angry journalist alerts him to this fact, he starts to pursue the case of the unprosecuted SS officers with unmatched zeal. Time and again, however, he finds himself with confronted with a society either too ignorant or too unwilling to air its dirty laundry, to really get its troubled past out in the open. Nevertheless, after a herculean effort on the part of Radmann and others, the trial did eventually took place which led to the conviction of 17 people—Gestapos, dentists, adjutants and so on—who were involved in the horrors of Auschwitz.

If there's anything Im Labyrinth des Schweigens does well, it's conveying the very silence conveyed in the title. The notion that Nazism was rooted out with the Nuremberg trials is treated with great disdain by the film. The film conveys the naiveté of many of Germany's citizens at the time as well as their reasons for doing so. There's a short scene that perfectly encapsulates this idea: Radmann and his superior are at odds with two colleagues. One of them states that digging up this part of Germany's past can only do more harm than good. Just now, when we're 'trying to move on', a case like this might force every German child to look at his parents with suspicion. Such an effect is toxic he claims to which Radmann's superior responds that it's precisely the forced silence which is toxic, particularly in a democracy which is still so young. In a single short scene we're treated to a convincing representation of both sides of the argument.

The film has two weaknesses: strange tonal shifts and a boring, irrelevant romance. The first one is difficult to describe as it makes it sound like I wanted Im Labyrinth to be a melodramatic trauermarsch of sorts with zero comic relief. This is not the case. Aptly timed humor and other non-dramatic content can add greatly to character development and so on, but with Im Labyrinth I felt there were certain tonal inconsistencies. It also doesn't help the film features an incredibly forced romance between Radmann and a young woman. I get that the romance is there to generate a conflict not dissimilar to Fincher's Zodiac, where the investigator's family life is threatened by his obsessions. Im Labyrinth tries to do the same thing, but—save for a few moments—the romance is never really connected to the main storyline, so it feels like an afterthought. There's also some really cringe-worthy writing: during their first (and thankfully only) lovemaking session, she for some reason tells him that 'life's good'…uhh, okay. You see where I'm going with this? It just feels like it's going through the motions. The filmmakers first create the obligatory romance and then threaten to disrupt it to make us feel for Radmann, but it never works. This is made all the more strange by the fact that a certain plot twist regarding Radmann's own family is far more convincing in making us feel for him.

All in all though, despite the occasional cringe, Im Labyrinth des Schweigens is very interesting to watch. In the end, it undeniably succeeds at what is undoubtedly its main task: illuminating the why and how of Germany's postwar silence on the Holocaust.
10 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Bring me the head of Josef Mengele.
Fella_shibby25 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Good movie but was slow at times. Beautiful cinematography with good acting by the lead. Was lil tough to watch at times especially the narration by the survivors of the holocaust. Basically its a post holocaust movie. Nowhere close to Justice at Nuremberg but a good attempt. The movie shud hav focused more on the trial n more on the psychology of the perpetrators/Nazis. Instead it became more of an investigation/procedural film. The movies length was a bit short for such an important subject. The story is fascinating. The scene where they narrate how a small boy with an apple was smashed against a wall by a nazi, made my eyes tearful. I was surprised at the widespread ignorance about the holocaust in Germany jus one generation aft the war. It's directed by Giulio Ricciarelli. He did a good job considering this is his first full length film. Good acting by the lead actor Alexander Fehling (Inglorius basterds,Homeland-TV series)
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Finally a movie that shows the culpability of the common German people in the Holocaust!
antoniatejedabarros25 December 2016
Major Parker (Tim Williams). Originally in German in the movie (the American Major speaks German to Johann Radmann): "You were all Nazis. In the Eastern sector, now you are all communists. Jesus, you Germans! If little green men from Mars landed tomorrow, you would all become green".

Finally a movie that shows the culpability of the common German people in the Holocaust! The Holocaust didn't happen just because of 4 Nazi psychos, but thanks to millions of ordinary men (90% of the Germans from 1940-41) who supported the Nazi ideology and happily collaborated in the massacres of millions of innocent men, women and children. By the way, two books that brilliantly demonstrate the collaboration of the vast and overwhelming majority of Germans in the gigantic Nazi killing machine are Rethinking the Holocaust, by Yehuda Bauer (a masterpiece) and Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, by Daniel Goldhagen.

Im Labyrinth des Schweigens shows the fast oblivion in Germany of the atrocities committed by the Germans just 10 years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps, and the impunity millions of murderers enjoyed, people who tortured, massacred and gassed millions of Jews and non-Jews in the 1940s. Only very few Germans heard about Auschwitz before the famous Eichmann trial in 1961.

Im Labyrinth des Schweigens focuses on the the period prior to the trials that took place in Frankfurt between December 20, 1963 and August, 1965 (called in German der Auschwitz- Prozess) against very few SS members who operated in Auschwitz. The trials were ridiculous and a spit on the 1,100,000 victims who were massacred and gassed in Auschwitz. From the 7,000 SS members who operated in Auschwitz during the war, only 22 dogs were judged at the Frankfurt Trials. Nevertheless, the attempt for a pinch of justice was important. From the 22 SS members, only 6 got life imprisonment, many got ridiculous sentences ranging from 3 to 10 years, and 5 were simply released.

Im Labyrinth des Schweigens shows the extreme difficulty of judging the murderers because of the silence the Germans kept and their attempt to hide the truth.

Im Labyrinth des Schweigens got many prizes (although none were extremely important) and it was the film that Germany presented for the category 'Best Foreign Language Film' (Oscars, 2016), although it was not nominated.

I always believed that the only way Germans (and Austrians) have today to clean the blood their parents and grandparents spilled is to be deeply anti-Nazi. But how many Germans and Austrians are there today who are deeply anti-Nazi?

"Schweigen" is "silence" in German. The correct translation of the title would be: "In the Labyrinth of Silence". In English the title has been poorly translated as Labyrinth of Lies.

The best: the fact that the culpability of the German common pig in the Holocaust finally arouses.

The worst: that even when the film shows Fritz Bauer (the judge who made the Frankfurt Trials possible), the character of Johann Radmann (brilliantly performed by Alexander Fehling) is fictitious.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The important quest for truth
clanciai10 May 2020
At one moment Johann finds himself at a crossroad and has a brilliant future in store for him on a new job of less moral strain, but he chooses to go back to the difficult path of hardship up among the thorns, and his chief, Generalstaatsanwalt Fritz Bauer, commendably played by Gert Voss, the most important character in the context, somewhat reminding of Bruno Ganz, asks him: "Why did you come back?" The young prosecutor answers: "We must do what is right." And that is the main theme of the whole story. A Jewish painter recognizes a crook from Auschwitz as now a respectable school-teacher, and his young friend Johann together with his best friend the journalist Gnielka (André Szymanski) start digging. The deeper they dig, the more it stinks, as is usually the case, and of course this leads to some inconveniences, but they are never quite deterrent, as Generalstaatsanwalt Fritz Bauer actually urges them on, whereas you would have expected the opoosite from such an important man in a leading position; but there are other problems also - the most formidable one is that they are compelled to bring quite ordinary people to justice, a baker, farmers, lumberjacks and quite common citizens, and this is the extraordinary and most sensitive predicament of the process: what they find themselves obliged to do is to bring the entire German people on trial for having kept silent over atrocious crimes they were all too well familiar with, as none could turn a blind eye to them when Germany burned to cinders in the Second World War. It was not all just Hitler's fault, but everyone who watched it all without protest or saying anything were accomplices. It is not a question of guilt, it is a matter of facing the truth. As another said: The most important thing is not to bring all those guilty scoundrels to justice, but to let their victims come out with the truth by letting them tell their stories. It's all a true story, the film begins in 1958. the trial starts in 1963. 17 out of 19 accused were sentenced after almost two years' trial, and it was the beginning of Germany's heroic effort to finally make a clean slate out of its most difficult chapter in history.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Different Perspective Warning: Spoilers
While many movies have been made about WWII and the Holocaust, few have been made concerning the rebuilding of Germany after the war. There is little doubt that this would have been a fascinating time in history to examine and yet I for one have rarely heard it discussed. Until now. LABYRINTH OF LIES tells the story of what could have been the greatest cover up in history had it not been for several brave individuals who wanted to make sure the truth was told.

Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) is a recent addition to the prosecutor's office in Frankfurt. The year is 1958 and the war has been over now for 13 years. Given the task of handling minor cases like traffic tickets, Radmann has his curiosity piqued when a journalist confronts the head prosecutor claiming that a man has recognized one of the guards from Auschwitz working as a grade school teacher. Ignored by the head man, Radmann takes it upon himself to talk to Thomas Gnielka (Andre Szymanski), the reporter.

While many of us today know full well what happened at Auschwitz at this time it wasn't common knowledge. Gnielka takes Radmann with him to meet Simon Kirsch, the Auschwitz survivor who gave him this information. As Radmann gets more and more involved in the lives of these two men as well as becoming a part of their circle of friends, he wants to take on this case. But that's where the first impediment comes in as his supervisor wants the case ignored. Fortunately that's not the case with the head of the department, Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss).

A Jew himself, Bauer appoints Radmann the head of the investigation and sets him up with his own secretary and office. Radmann begins to look into Simon's claim but finds his path blocked by people in his government as well as U.S. representatives remaining after the occupation. No one wants the truth of Auschwitz to be revealed and they will do anything to keep what happened secret.

With the guiding hand of Bauer to set him on the right path, Radmann begins to uncover the secret history of Auschwitz and what was done by the German people, some just following orders but the more horrendous of the group giving those orders with apparent glee and joy. At the top of his list is Josef Mengele. When Radmann learns that Mengele travels without fear between Germany and his home in South America he is outraged. But it is his focus on Mengele that nearly brings his investigation to a halt. Only through dogged determination will he find the opportunity to find those behind Auschwitz.

What makes this movie interesting is not the story of Auschwitz itself but the fact that so many were willing to hide this piece of history for what they considered the greater good, the rebuilding of a country already devastated by a war their leaders had created. But can the healing actually take place if the wounds are hidden rather than taken care of? That becomes the central question asked in this film.

It's not just the bureaucrats that attempt to ignore the past either. A side story of Radmann falling in love with a beautiful dress designer who is part of that Bohemian group that Gnielka surrounds himself with ties in with the story as well. While outraged at first when well connected and wealthy bureaucrats and their wives set her up with her own shop and business, she begins to find that she too is caught up in the silence rather than the correction of history. Like most of those who were involved in the war she simply wants to move on and forget about the past no matter how terrible the atrocities were.

Let me say now that if subtitles are not your thing you'll probably pass this one by. But if you do you short change yourself from seeing a great movie. It's not a metaphor for current history, it's not making a hugely political statement about the world today, it's discussing the past and a history that was not just almost forgotten but hidden away under mounds of paperwork and by people who were once involved in those brutal places but now are connected enough with officials that they feel safe.

The movie has a stunning look to it with some beautiful cinematography that could have been found drab but instead feels real. The acting it done so well that even with translation the performances on display here convey the emotions so well that you find yourself wondering from moment to moment what will happen next as well as being involved with each character on screen.

When all is said and done, in what some have found a slightly faulty ending wrapping things up too neatly, you have a compelling story that offers zero dull moments and plenty of drama that will hold your attention from start to finish. For me a great movie is one that I know I'll pull out and watch again. This is one of those movies.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Importance of IRL Events Trump a Somewhat Formulaic Story
vsks10 November 2015
Germany's submission (trailer) for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards puts viewers in a world of anti-Semitism, fear, denial, indifference and callous pragmatism. The movie, screened with subtitles, breathes life into the familiar storyline of a justice-seeking crusader. This one is not entirely alone, but the pervasive forces he's battling are propagated not just by those in power but by the common folk as well. Set in Frankfurt in 1958, the movie fictionalizes the effort to conduct the first German prosecutions of former Nazi officials. Many believed the Nuremberg trials conducted by the Allied forces had resolved that matter (or should have). At the same time, it was common knowledge that war criminals were everywhere, carrying on normal lives with impunity. Only after these ground-breaking trials did Germans finally confronted their wartime culpability. Bringing ex-Nazis to justice required heroic effort. Making that journey in the film is young prosecutor Johann Radmann, played by Alexander Fehling in a widely praised performance. (Radmann is a composite of several real-life prosecutors.) He's a junior one, handling traffic violations, but he's ambitious. The screenplay deftly reveals this by showing him articulating the case for sentencing a murderer to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, then we see he's standing alone in front of a bathroom mirror. Into this unfulfilled life comes a revelation from a journalist, Thomas Gnielka (André Szymanski). He tells prosecutors a member of the Waffen S.S. stationed at the Auschwitz concentration camp now works as a school teacher, in violation of federal law. Radmann wants the case, but he's opposed by his boss and colleagues. He's supported, however, then led by a shrewd, experienced Attorney General, Fritz Bauer, the real-life hero of the story, who has long harbored the ambition of bringing top ex-Nazis to justice. Played by the late Gert Voss, he exudes quiet power. Radmann is far less aggressive in his personal life than his professional one, but a convincing romantic involvement with a dressmaker, Marlene Wondrak (Friederike Becht), raises the stakes for him. We feel the horrors of the camp through the emotions of survivors, primarily artist Simon Kirsch (Johannes Krisch), a friend of Gnielka, who lost his twin daughters to the horrific experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele. But the focus stays on the complicity of those who continue to ignore, deny, or cover up Nazi crimes. It's not difficult to understand the disconnect between Radmann and the people trying to thwart him. He was too young to appreciate how so many of his countrymen came to be Nazis. If he can't come to terms with his new knowledge, however, it will destroy him.
7 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great movie equal to the other great German movie"The Life of Others"
chris-5552515 February 2016
I congratulate the Germans for their courage to treat their history this way. A film with an excellent scenario and great "non Hollywood actors". The experience the director gained producing documentaries in the past was transferred successfully into his first feature film. The atmosphere of the fifties in Germany was well recreated. Till I saw the film I was under the impression that the "Entnazifizierungsprozess" started right after the Nurnberg trials. This film proves that it actually started in the early sixties. The question always remains, how a nation that produced Goethes, Schillers, Beethovens and others like them could commit these crimes against humanity. Let's not forget that the Nazis were voted to power.
7 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Sobering, entertaining, and informing.
jdesando8 November 2015
"You were all Nazis. In the Eastern sector, now you are all communists. Jesus, you Germans! If little green men from Mars landed tomorrow, you would all become green." Major Parker (Tim Williams)

As Germans take the initiative to capture Nazis and bring them to trial in 1963-65, we all can revisit in Labyrinth of Lies the stunning atrocities of major player Dr. Joseph Mengele and many more minor miscreants. The docudrama doesn't paint Germans as in the above quote to be like sheep; it treats them with the respect due to a people deeply affected by the Nazi horrors as they only recently can admit to being blind about the holocaust.

Assistant Prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), although young and inexperienced, corrals his idealism to head a search that blocks him and his crew at every turn, a realistic touch because we know the millions of Jews who died at the hands of these murderers.

Labyrinth of Lies deliberately and clearly establishes the need for the trials, as explained by Attorney General Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss), while it presents the young Radmann pursuing criminals and a love. The onerous and damaging task of collating names and addresses without computers is a heavy cost for the idealistic Radmann and by implication, the German people.

Regular Germans have long needed to face their past with stoicism and contrition—Labyrinth of Lies, in a successfully-measured drama, gives them that chance.

"The risk of the Holocaust is not that it will be forgotten, but that it will be embalmed and surrounded by monuments and used to absolve all future sins." Zygmunt Bauman
1 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed