Der Hauptmann Review

Penoos Aras
  • 5/5

I’ll try to avoid spoilers:

The Captain made me feel uncomfortable, and for this type of film, that is a good thing. You will not sit there feeling good & that is how it should come across, we should rightly feel uncomfortable.

Based on a true story towards the end of World War 2, these types of events happened & the film pulls no punches in showing how a man can lose every bit of humanity, every bit of compassion, his soul - the descent into savagery, even against fellow comrades, those that did not expose him, was total.

If you have seen Das Boot (if not hunt it down), The Captain portrays a similar air of war claustrophobia, Das Boot was a submarine setting, this time it is the claustrophobia of being trapped as defeat & allied occupation consumes the German ranks. And that is the contradiction of war, a pertinent line in the film “They are all dead anyway...” resonates, this man could have done something else with the power he assumed, but he did not. The fact that the film is German with subtitles only adds to the fraught tension of the terrifying moments, of which there are many.

The cinematography is beautiful, a black & white hue adds a stark darkness to the brutal situation, the music is a clanking, industrial score, fraying your nerves.

The lead actor. Max Hubacher, nails the protagonist - think Ralph Fiennes in Schlindlers List . You will initially pity & root for The Captain, but as he immerses himself in the charade, this will quickly turn to hate & disgust. How quickly he can turn a situation back into his favour, is testament to his narcissism. Why does he do what he does? Will you understand why? That is down to the individual to answer themselves - what would I do in the inevitable defeat that was coming? I truly do not know as I have not seen or experienced first hand the horrors that these men did, so how can I sit in judgement? But I do hope I would not fall this far.

There are some “lighter” moments that seem absurd (a speech of orders delivered in underpants) and moments where you think that it must be obvious he is not real & he will be uncovered, but that is what war is I guess, men forget what they know to be right & true because it is the only way? The scene where four men are tied together & used in a barbaric human “sport” scene is ended with: “The next round is on me.”, gallows humour at its finest.

A hidden gem that I discovered by chance & one that should not pass you by, if you want a brutal take on the theatre of war. There is no sugar coating, there is no bravado, there are no jingoistic speeches, but still the hairs on my neck stood up & the tension in my stomach was real.