For most cinephiles, our understanding of foreign films tends to move towards art house realms. This is largely because most of our consumption of loosely defined foreign fare comes through film festivals, which routinely stray closer to the art realms of cinema. Greek cinema, for example, is far more robust than simply being Yorgos Lanthimos.
This unfortunately erases large swaths of national cinemas that stray closer to genre and traditional affair. Many nations have their own version of the rom-com. Star Cinema in the Philippines has ostensibly built an entire industry out of generating those. Nations also have their own version of the prestige adult drama, the kind designed for an older crowd, and usually based off of a true story or adapted from a novel.
Based off of a novel of the same name, The Collini Case falls into this category. The film is an exploration of conspiracies and long-standing war crime cover-ups in Germany. In it, Elyas M’Barek plays Casper Leinen, a young German lawyer tasked with defending a man (Franco Nero) who murdered a former mentor of his (Manfred Zapkata). As Casper digs deeper into the possible motive for his client’s violent crime, he discovers more about the hidden crimes of German society.
I’ll be upfront: director Marco Kreuzpainter isn’t going to be known for reinventing the wheel anytime soon with The Collini Case. There are no unique camera angles or techniques. The film seems to co-opt the mid-stage Soderbergh yellow filter, a choice that seems to be in service of creating an early 2000s period piece. All of the performances are serviceable, while none are spectacular. There’s enough variety of shot types, distances, and edits, to suggest that enough coverage was employed to provide the film with the feel of a higher production budget than was likely known.
Yet, the film is solid. I have no real complaints, other than a strange frustrating with the very nature of the case itself, and a feeling that such a trail would struggle to get off the ground in the manner that it does within the film. While it does mention a despicable German law, so too does the original novel. The Collini Case makes for easy heroes and villains; the truth seekers sit on one end, and those simply following orders on the other.
This does not mean that The Collini Case lacks a thematic appeal. The twist of the conspiracy is obvious from the get go. You’ve probably seen enough versions of Kevin McDonald’s State of Play to know that a coverup is in place. The second Dr. Richard Mattinger (Heiner Lauterbach) tries to buy off Casper, you can almost guess with pinpoint accuracy where this will end up.
Still, I would argue that such a piece of competency is perfectly acceptable. If we have to get a half-a-dozen merely fine prestige dramas searching for Oscar glory every Christmas, the least we can do is import one that’s good from somewhere else.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
- Release Date: 6/5/2020
- Directed by: Marco Kreuzpaintner
- Starring: Elyas M'Barek, Franco Nero, Heiner Lauterbach, Manfred Zapkata
- Produced by: Christoph Müller, Kerstin Schmidbauer, Marcel Hartges
- Written by: Christian Zübert, Ferdinand von Schirach, Jens-Frederik Otto, Robert Gold
- Studio: Constantin Film, Mythos Film, Rolize GmbH & Co., SevenPictures Film