“You are entering a labyrinth” our bushy-tailed protagonist is told early on in this satisfying ‘based on a true’ story drama. The maze in question is a dark place as it leads to the Auschwitz death camp and the collective amnesia of post-war Germany. So, not a date movie.
Set 20 years after Adolf shot the dog and himself, the film sees the Fatherland finally starting to boom, so why dredge up the past? Those old enough to remember don’t care to dwell, while the younger generation haven’t exactly been schooled in their recent history.
Like the recent, and superior, Phoenix, Labyrinth of Lies takes another look at the human ripples that continue long after the Holocaust. It begins when a survivor sees a former torturer working as a teacher at the local school and is propelled by a young lawyer Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) and a frothing bohemian journalist, Thomas Gnielke (Andre Szymanski). Remarkably, the horrors of the camps were unknown to Johann and his contemporaries, the word Auschwitz not ringing any bells to anyone under 30. Egged on by the boho Journo and his hep cat friends, Johann gets stuck into his task before getting side-tracked by a hunt for Josef Mengele, whom he discovers has been allowed to enter Germany on more than one occasion to visit his relatives.
Director Giulio Ricciarelli likes to mix things up, adding thriller-like pace and romance to jolly us along. It’s such heavy stuff that you thank him for it. Yet there’s a lack of subtlety that one expects would have helped bring some hitherto unseen shades of grey to the fore, alongside a whiff of made-for-TV.
Ironically, the less you know about post war Germany, and Nazi bastards like Mengele, the more useful and yes, enjoyable, the film will probably be. Still, this is a good watch, but it feels like a great one was lurking within. Notable also as the last appearance of the great Gert Voss, who goes out in style playing Fritz Bauer, the real Jewish boss of the fictional Johann Radmann.