Labyrinth of Lies
Condemn the Germans all you want, but would you really want to know if a close relative tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib during the regrettable Iraqi war?
A German film in English subtitles, Labyrinth of Lies is a masterful historical work that is tailor made for all of those seeking a career as a trial lawyer. Set in Frankfort in 1958 and based on actual events, it follows a young prosecuting attorney who suddenly discovers that his country has been shamefully ignoring recognized citizens who participated in the killing of thousands of Jews at the Auschwitz Extermination Camp in Poland.
The center of this film is Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), a bored deputy prosecutor assigned to handle traffic violations. His interests in Auschwitz follows an accidental meeting with an investigative reporter, and his exploration of the subject leads to him being appointed the lead prosecutor in charge of the investigation.
History has demonstrated that most of Germany at that time had decided that World War II was a closed book after the trials at Nuremberg. Radmann meets resistance in every quarter as he forces his countrymen to consider whether honored members of their family were nothing less than murderers during the Nazi era.
His attempts to bring the Auschwitz criminals to justice nearly destroys him. His personal relationship with a young clothing designer, played with alluring style by Friederike Becht, falls apart as he increasingly seeks comfort from a bottle of booze. He quickly becomes fixated on finding and arresting the diabolical Dr. Josef Mengele, and his inability to bring Mengele to justice leaves him feeling that he should abandon his whole enterprise.
The movie has a number of remarkable moments, not the least of which is Radmann’s close association with his small team of assistants. The center piece of the film centers on his meeting with an Auschwitz survivor who remains crushed beyond words with the memory of allowing his two 4yr old twin daughters into what he thought was Dr. Mengele’s protection. Your heart breaks every time you hear this poor man describe his story.
Let me close by saying that it is important for all trial lawyers to see this film as it reflects the emotions involved in our practice where our client’s pain and suffering becomes our own. As a reminder hunt down an old Twilight Zone episode entitled “The Sin Eater” which was one of Rod Serling’s best. It summarizes the personal battle reflected by Mr. Radmann, and it is why everyone, particularly attorneys, should keep this film on their radar screen.