Saturday, 6 August 2016

Mord am Höllengrund (4 Stars)

This is a typical German crime film, a detective story, a whodunnit, or whatever else you would like to call it. The Germans call it a Krimi, a simple word that sums up the genre of films in which someone is murdered and the police have to solve the case. As I've told my readers in the past, Germans are fascinated by Krimis. About half the films made in Germany each year are Krimis, usually made for television, but that doesn't mean that they're of low quality. Television movies in Germany are frequently of very high quality. Unfortunately, very few of the German Krimis are ever made available outside of Germany. My English speaking readers will have to learn German if they want to watch them. I expect that now I'm in Germany I'll be watching a lot of Krimis, so wait for my  upcoming reviews.

The film's title means "Murder at Höllengrund". Höllengrund is the name of an area in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, a mountainous region close to the border with Austria. The main character is Sabine Sonntag, an artist whose job is to make reconstructions for a local museum. Her 18-year-old son Ilya plans to take his girlfriend Cora on a trip to Italy. He has to pick her up from a cave in Höllengrund where she has spent the night. After Ilya leaves Sabine sees that he has forgotten his passport, so she drives to the cave to give it to him. She finds his car parked on the road, but he isn't at the cave. What she does find is Cora's body, barely covered in a shallow grave. She goes back to the car to wait for her son, but when she gets there his car is gone. Since she suspects that Ilya killed his girlfriend she doesn't report it to the police. But the police soon find the body, and they treat Ilya as the main suspect.

This is a thrilling murder mystery. Even though all the clues point at Ilya, it's obvious to the viewer that he isn't the killer. That would make the film too simple. When the killer was finally revealed it was a shock to me. He was skilfully disguised throughout the film, with only the slightest hints that it might have been him.

One of the things remarkable about the film is the society in the fictional small town of Aubach. There are no intact families. There are four women, including Sabine, all of whom are single mothers. The women go out on girls' nights, getting drunk without any men waiting for them at home. The men in the film are also single, and they all seem to be interested in Sabine. I'd be interested in her as well.

Sabine Sonntag is played by Katharina Wackernagel, an actress who appears in a lot of German Krimis. Usually she plays the detective, but in this case she's a (maybe not so) innocent bystander. The biggest role she has played was as the terrorist Astrid Proll in "Baader Meinhof Complex". If you're English, she's probably the best actress that you've never heard of. I'll try to watch more of her films over the next few months.

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