Saturday, September 30th, 2017
The German film Der Hauptmann was screened yesterday in the Official Section. It tells the true story of how a starving young private in the last few weeks of World War Two steals a captain’s uniform and then proceeds to murder and plunder his way across a beaten Nazi Germany. At the press conference he gave accompanied by his actors, the producer, and the composer of the soundtrack, director Robert Schwentke explained why he had shot in black and white, recalling how Michael Powell, on seeing the rushes for Raging Bull, had told Martin Scorsese that he couldn’t shoot in colour because no one would be able to look beyond the blood. He had also wanted to create a certain distance from the horrifying events portrayed in the film.
Asked why the focus in Der Hauptmann was on deserters as victims, Schwentke replied that an enormous number of them were shot in the last stages of the war and he had wanted to tell his story from the viewpoint of the perpetrators rather than from the victims’ perspective, which has rarely been the case in German cinema. “We want to make the audience experience things differently.” He also confessed that as our propensity for cruelty and injustice is impossible to explain, he had no answers for why the main character commits the horrendous acts he does: “the more I read about this period, the less I understand it,” and he hoped his film would be a prophylactic that would force people to think about certain things.