Monday, 8 April 2013

End of the Game (4 Stars)

This film was made in 1975 and is based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt's novel, "The judge and his hangman". The original version was 105 minutes long, but the only version available on DVD is a German release shortened to 91 minutes. The German DVD includes the original English dialog, but I'm unable to say what was removed or why. The film closely follows the book, with only a few insignificant changes. It was the first novel written by Dürrenmatt, who is better known as a playwright.

Hans Bärlach and Richard Gastmann are two young law students in Istanbul who are in love with the same woman, Nadine. While walking across a bridge in the middle of the city Richard makes a bet with Hans that it's possible to commit a murder in public and not be convicted. Hans accepts the bet, and Richard promptly pushes Nadine off the bridge to her death. The police suspect Hans of the murder, but in the absence of any definite evidence neither of them is convicted.

30 years later Hans has become a police detective, while Richard is a leading Swiss politician. Hans is still determined to bring Richard to justice, but he is also weighed down by guilt, blaming himself for Nadine's death by accepting the foolish wager. One of Hans's fellow police officers is murdered and he decides to pin the murder on Richard, even though he knows the killer was someone else.

This was the first in three novels featuring Detective Bärlach, and unfortunately the only one to have been filmed. The books (and this film) have the structure of typical detective novels, but in spirit they are the opposite, they can be called anti-detective novels. It doesn't matter how or why a criminal is caught as long as he's guilty. The novel has long philosophical discussions on the ethics of crime-fighting which have been omitted in the film.

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