No segue. I don’t even think I’ve seen a trailer for this movie before starting my initial impressions.
The story looks like it’s about a German soldier who is a deserter. He escapes his chasers, but happens upon an officer’s uniform and puts it on. Soon, soldiers beneath the uniform’s rank treat him like a superior officer and plays along with the ruse.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Max Hubacher, known for stuff that I’ve never seen or heard of.
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Robert Schwentke, known for ALLEGIANT (2016). Composing the score is Martin Todsharow. The cinematographer is Florian Ballhaus I FEEL PRETTY (2018), SNATCHED (2017), and ALLEGIANT. Finally, the editor is Michal Czarnecki, slated for the upcoming GARETH JONES (2018).
Overall, I’d say this movie is either going to be good, or dull. It depends on how effective the lust for power is portrayed and if it’s gradual, which would be good, or if it’s instantaneous, which will be a glob full of lame sauce.
This is my honest opinion of: THE CAPTAIN / DER HAUPTMANN
Set in Germany, circa April 1945. Willi Herold (Max Hubacher) is a soldier in the German army, but is a deserter. He escapes his pursuers and while on the run, happens upon an abandoned military car with a captain’s uniform inside. He puts it on, and quickly encounters another German soldier, Freytag (Milan Preschel), who thinks he’s a captain. Playing along, the two venture out together on what Willi pretends is a special mission directly from Hitler: seeking information about the front. Along the way, he’s forced in enact officer responsibilities, provide law and order, among other acts in order to keep up his façade as a Captain.
I liked it. I really liked it, actually.
This first thing that I’m going to praise is it’s theme of getting drunk with power. It’s portrayed in a way that feels much more grounded than another movie would do. I feel like another film would have Willi immediately abuse his power and be an outright dick, or play innocent and confused at first, and have his turn to abuse be too sudden to warrant sensibility. Here, there’s an interesting balance of the two extremes. Here’s what I mean. When Willi first meets Freytag, he isn’t overly nice to him, apart from sharing an apple with him. He still indulges in the pleasantries, such as having the door opened for him, being driven around, continuing to ride in the car as his men pull it like horses, he’s a dick, but he doesn’t quite make a habit of being much worse than a spoiled brat, rather than a merciless, murderous bastard, though that does play a part later on. For the most part, whenever he interacts with anyone, he not only tries to maneuver through the conversations to seem convincing as a German Captain, but he also tries to find ways to make life easier for his men. I could certainly see a level of contradiction, treating his men like mules one second, then giving them a cozy ride in a truck the next. Then again, I would argue that German Captains in World War II weren’t always the most generous of blokes, so he had to maintain appearances and a position of respect, but not be such a dick to his men that they would abandon him, or worse, frag him. Point is, his power hunger feels natural to his circumstances and his actions make sense, going from a pretty sympathetic dude, to a downright despicable cock who got what he deserved.
It’s a really well made film as well. The violence feels especially real, particularly in Camp II. There’s a realistic beatdown of a prisoner, the execution of dozens of prisoners with the use of that machinegun, whatever it’s called. When that sucker killed someone, it fucked them up to the point where they could fit in a thimble. There’s a mortar attack and buildings get blown apart that look staggeringly real, the action is truly awesome to watch when it comes around.
So that’s some high praise, right? Did I have any problems with the movie? A couple small ones, and all in the beginning of the film.
My smaller problem is that I’m not too keen on the function of the scenes involving Willi and that one compatriot he was traveling with for a whole… two minutes. After he escapes his pursuers, he starts traveling with a companion who gets axed off pretty quickly, and then we get to the part where he finds the abandoned car with the Captain’s uniform, and then the plot takes off. Perhaps it was meant to serve as set-up for the tone of the movie, as the guy is brutally killed by farmers stabbing with pitchforks, but it seemed pretty elaborate and unnecessary to me.
My bigger problem is when Willi and Freytag’s are in the inn where they get a meal, pretending to take names to reimburse for thefts and what have you. The innkeeper, for some reason, suspects that Willi isn’t actually a German officer, even though he was buying it a few moments earlier. Even further still, he brings out a thief in the middle of the night and demands the Captain execute the thief, to which he complies. Okay, I can’t pretend to be a World War II buff, but I have to ask, who in their right mind would question a German Captain’s official standing?! Something’s telling me if Willi was indeed a Captain, he would have executed the thief, and then the innkeeper for having the gall to question a German officer. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m not, but this seemed a bit unrealistically brazen.
Overall, this film was damn good. Some great acting, I loved the black and white aesthetic, the action was awesome, and was overall pretty fun to watch. I may not have agreed with every single aspect of the beginning of the movie, but it wasn’t enough to hinder it too badly. As a recommendation, I highly endorse this. As it’s an indie foreign film, I wager it might be pretty tough to find if you’re not, well, German, or live in a metropolitan city like Los Angeles or New York City. But if you’re lucky enough to find it, I say give it a watch, or see if you can find it as a rental.
My honest rating for THE CAPTAIN / DER HAUPTMANN: a strong 4/5
This week’s reviews:
Next week’s reviews