Giulio Ricciarelli's Labyrinth of Lies commits the Hollywood faux pas that I hoped, perhaps ignorantly, a foreign film would avoid. Namely, that it inserts a tepid love story into a film about the Holocaust. I understand people really, desperately need some sort of metaphorical teddy bear to cuddle when the harsh realities of humanity's brutality rears its ugly head, but it almost seems sacrilegious to throw in a love-line so flaccid and unnecessary.
What the relationship between Johann (Alexander Fehling) and Marlene (Friederike Becht) does seek to illuminate is the realities of our mutual involvement in, not only the war that left an estimated 60 million corpses in its wake, but in all wars and atrocities. This point is delivered with a fair share of poignancy and passion.
Johann is a promising young public prosecutor bent on finding out exactly who was a card-carrying, Hitler-Heil'ing, swastika-emblazoned Nazi, something that his colleagues would rather sweep under the rug for their children to perhaps trip over. He strives to bring to justice not only the sadistic torturers and cold-blooded murderers that ushered children into ovens, but the Eichmann-everyman of the Third Reich who, sitting idly by as millions of their fellow citizens were led to the slaughter, are inherently complicit in the murder. He discovers what we all know, with a little close contemplation, to be true: that "all those who participated, who didn't say 'no,' they are Auschwitz."
Johann must confront one of the most intimidating realities that citizens of any nation often have to confront: the shared entanglement of our parents in the shame of our nations and the guilt of our people — the sins of our fathers. Whether it is in a rice field in Vietnam, a market in Kabul, a communal square in China, a gulag in Siberia or a concentration camp in Poland, the harsh reality of warfare and the human condition is that the day-to-day perpetuation of business-as-usual makes us accomplices, to one extent or another, in the dark side of human existence. What Labyrinth of Lies seeks to extract from this reality is that, "The only response to Auschwitz is to do the right thing yourself."
Dir. Giulio Ricciarelli, writ. Eisabeth Bartel, Giulio Ricciarelli;, feat. Alexander Fehling, André Szymanski, Friederike Becht
Opens at Santikos Bijou Fri., Nov 13
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