The Captain (2017)
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Max Hubacher stars as Willi Herold, the soldier we are to assume has deserted his military outfit and is now dirty, hungry and cold as he evades German patrols. Things change drastically for Herold when he stumbles on an abandoned suitcase neatly packed with a German Captain's coat and full uniform. We are left to wonder what happened to the officer, but do get to watch Willi's crazy next few days as he impersonates a German officer and assumes command of his situation.
Circumstances result in "Captain" Herold gaining followers, each of whom are as lost or unwilling to continue fighting as himself. The ragtag group ends up at prison camp Aschendorfermoor ... a camp containing German deserters and looters. Herold has convinced those in charge that he has direct orders from Hitler to take command of the camp, and a horrific massacre of prisoners takes place over the next few days.
While this is a stunning story ripped from historical documents, the film works even better as a psychological character study. Herold first employs his newfound power as a survival strategy, but he is soon corrupted by the power of his assumed position. We witness as some blindly follow orders, and we watch (dumbfounded) as Herold's thirst for power overtakes whatever integrity he might have had prior to the desperation injected by war.
The film moves at a meticulous pace and at times feels redundant. It could have been a stellar short film, but director Schwentke uses the slow pace to allow our shock to grow as Herold evolves into a coy monster (with a fine performance from Mr. Hubacher). Filmed in stark black and white, it offers some beautiful shots from cinematographer Florian Ballhaus (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA), the son of famed cinematographer and 3 time Oscar nominee Michael Ballhaus (GANGS OF NEW YORK). The elder Ballhaus passed away in 2017, and the son continues to build his own legacy. Set in Germany during April 1945, this blend of docudrama and black comedy is a collaboration of German, Poland and France, and as a true story, packs quite a punch.
The first scene right away felt very odd, with the "Feldgendarmerie" (basically military police) chasing Herold, simultaneously shooting, shouting and playing a trumpet. The depiction of events continues like that, in some scenes deadly serious and in others very grotesque and satirical, and it doesn't match well. Schwentke should have just sticked to one tone and went with it. Especially in the last act, when the main event is already over, the story goes completely nuts, with the main characters partying and apparently forgetting the war surrounding them.
You also never get an authentic feeling of World War II being in its last phase. I can't even specify what exactly I felt offputting, but the film just doesn't convey an authentic atmosphere. Especially the first part of the movie felt quite cheap and "acted".
This leads me to my biggest problem, which was the depiction of Herold's character, whose motivation remained very unclear and whose decisions just didn't make a whole lot of sense. I know that the core story here actually happened, but the portrayal of the main character's actions in the film just isn't consequent. At first he obviously just wants to escape death when dressing up as a captain, then he suddenly turns into a complete psychopath within a day or so. At least that's what his horrific actions are depicted as: the actions of a psychopath, who suddenly has full command. But Max Hubacher's acting just doesn't convey that. I don't know if the problem lies in the script or in his acting to be honest, probably a little of both.
To sum it up, this film was a mess tonally as well as story-wise. I know what Schwentke was trying to do, showing the problematic nature of power relations and the exploitation of those. But the result just felt weird and, most importantly for a story like that, it just didn't feel authentic and hence doesn't do the real victims of Herold justice.
I liked this movie very much because it had a very interesting plot and many good scenes. I liked the direction which was made by Robert Schwentke who is also the writer and I believe he did a great job on it. He combined very some historical events with his story and also showed us the cruelty of Nazi and what they did or what they were capable of doing. Another thing that I believe it's very important is the evolve of his main character, he started as a young frightened boy and in the end, he had courage, pride, and honor. It reminded me of the movie "Das Experiment" which was also presented very well what can happen if power is given to the wrong people. Regarding the interpretations, I liked the interpretation of Max Hubacher who played as Willi Herold and he was very good at his role, Frederick Lau who played as Kipinski and Milan Peschel who played as Freytag.
In conclusion, I have to say that "The Captain" is a nice movie with an interesting plot, some very good interpretations, and a very good direction. I recommend everyone to watch this movie because I am sure that you are going to enjoy it and I also believe that if you are a fan of war movies then you really have to watch this movie since it presents the true face of war.
its a raw film, and the two main themes are authority and desertations, soldiers returning alone or in small groups from the front,are picked up and merely shuffled into soldier prison camp, awaiting the military tribunal to decide wether or not they are kujons . its the bitter flavour of war,being british,american,german,russian or japanese, they all punished the war tired young men and woman, momentarily with quick executions,or with imprisonment.
the acting are very good,the characters are put on the edge, i especially liked ''herr freitag'' who expresses his fears and disbelief with high standard. in the beginning i started to wonder if this was some kind of comedy flick,but i soon found out what a harsh hell of a life described in the film. the story is said to be a true story, and that makes it even worse to imagine. what i miss in the plot is where and when things happens,that wouldve brought the message of the story even further ahead. i loved the use of original language with english subtitles.( i wish norwegian filmmakers had done the same,like in netflix's u-22 of july, where norwegian actors stumbles away with 6th grade school english.)
but its a good film, believe me, it is not for everyone though,and if youre fainthearted,or have a vivid ability to glue vision to your memory,then do make a ''halt'' when its discomforting you,because its not getting better.i watched with 3 long breaks ,just to devour.
Surprisingly the credits rocked me. They made me perplexed, they made me laugh, they gave me a real feeling of absurdity but as they continued, they made me scared, they left me thinking. Everything I was lacking before - it was in the credits.
The Captain is expert in slow character revealing in the chaos and immoral waging of war. It takes a powerless character from sympathy to a evil peak where he lords over life and death only for his own ego and survival. The questions are many such as if life depends on the death of innocents is that something a very average man would choose? In all wars we know this is called acceptable collateral damage to which, perhaps, this film may give one pause.
I think the black and white cinematography fits this story so well it's like an enveloping huge disaster looming itself. Much like a train wreck you watch while not turning away we see the evil of a man develop. It's fascinating and horrible at the same time. I think this film is well worth the watch. As the ending credits begin we get the film's only comedic relief in which we see the players in character and in the period Nazi wagon drive through modern Berlin interacting with confused locals. As absurd as this is what plays out in the previous hour and a half is of a higher level with deranged evil.
The movie captures good the final mad days in war destroyed Germany, and we watch some very disturbing, grotesque and thought provoking scenes of mass hysteria and psychosis. Der Hauptmann got not the biggest production, but for sure more interesting and "entertaining" as to watch some "schrott" like the last Oscar-burdened Dunkirk.
A German contribution to the WWII genre with some real quality like Untergang/Downfall (2004), with a far smaller budget/production of course.