59th London Film Festival Day 8

Took one day out to go to the theatre, so missed a bunch of golden opportunities. But the evening was splendid and the rest was probably beneficial. Started the marathon again with The People v Fritz Bauer a drama-documentary in the DEBATE Section.

ScanAttorney General Fritz Bauer (Burghart Klaussner) was a Jewish Nazi hunter after the war in Adenauer’s West Germany (as it was then). Convinced that until the State was cleaned of its Nazi sympathisers and war criminals, there would be no “sound” government and therefore no “good” Germany, he worked with a small team seeking out these men and women.

On receiving a letter from Argentina, he re-doubles his efforts to find Adolf Eichmann, but getting little or no help from the German authorities he decides to contact Mossad, the Israeli Secret Agency (an act of treason). On receiving the firm promise that once caught Eichmann will be tried in Germany he hands over all his information. Mossad is successful and Eichmann is kidnapped and taken to Israel to be tried. Fritz Bauer has another skeleton in his background which the German State seeks to capitalise upon, but failing that they compromise another of his associates,  Staatsanwalt Karl Angermann (Ronald Zehrheld), but his loyalty to Bauer is greater than any of them think, and Fritz Bauer goes to his death years later without the fact that he was instrumental in getting Adolf Eichmann to trial ever coming to light.

This film, directed and produced by Lars Kraume, exemplifies the best of post-Holocaust dramas, it follows the true story – it may invent conversations and details but remains faithful to the facts.

Then I went to two very different films in the THRILLER Section, both nerve-shredding but intensely interesting and entirely absorbing. The first was a talking heads documentary about the making of the film Le Mans. Which pretty much bombed in the Box Office, in spite of having Steve McQueen (the actor) playing the main part.

SMcQSteve McQueen, well known if not notorious for his love of speed, danger and women, was driven by a singular passion to produce a film that showed directly to the audience what it was like to be a racing driver.

Using extraordinary camera techniques to the exent of fitting a racing car with cameras, front, back and in the seat beside the driver, he filmed the race and then re-staged the whole race again with chosen drivers and a camera-car still driving at 230mph.

His ‘should-have-been’ triumph failed on many levels at the time, but is now a cult film for anyone the least interested in cars, racing and Steve McQueen.

This film tells that story. It was horribly dangerous and many people suffered for it, physically – one driver was burned quite badly and one lost part of his leg below the knee – several people lost out emotionally including Steve McQueen’s first wife, also his script writer on previous films Alain Trustman who never wrote for film again, and Steve himself, although he went on to make several more good, even great films. He died of cancer, the asbestos type, from asbestos fibre used at the time in the outfits of racing drivers – what an irony.

WaveFinally a Norwegian film by Director Roar Uthaug. The Wave belongs in a long line of thriller films in which “could happen” scenarios are explored. These films include Towering Inferno, Titanic and several earthquake movies too numerous to mention. They have an unlikely set of characters battling against a very real and present danger – the power of natural disaster.

I suppose, strictly speaking the first two films I gave did not quite cover natural disaster.  They were both possible, if unlikely, and then the Titanic did sink.

The Wave is set in Norway, a land of mountains and fjords. The stone of the mountains is stratified and in real life some of the mountains have crevasses that are being monitored closely for movement. In this film one in particular, above the town of Geiranger, is being constantly watched and checked by a group of geologists. However in spite of several anomalies in the data, no one is quite ready for the disaster unfolding at the top of the valley. Kristoffer Joner (Kristian Eikfjord) has actually left the geologists’ team to work in the oil-industry, but on the way to the Stavanger ferry with his family he suddenly realises what the anomalies could mean and turns the car around…

This is a finely tuned film, nerve-shredding to the bitter end and well acted. I have seen documentaries about landfall and the tsunami that is caused as a result and, believe me, they make the hair stand on end. This film shows one way that it might turn out, there are other ways – equally unpredictable and devastating. No estate agent in Norway is going to like this film…

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Filed under Environment, Film Review, General cinema, Modern History, Politics, Travel

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