Morality, justice and the limits of the law are explored in this clichéd adaptation of Ferdinand von Schirach’s bestselling novel.
Fabrizio Collini (Franco Nero) enters businessman Hans Meyer’s (Manfred Zapatka) hotel room and shoots him in the head three times before making his way towards the hotel lobby, leaving behind footprints stained with remnants of brain matter.
When confronted by the receptionist, he soberly responds: “He’s dead. Presidential suite,” with a tone so vacant that she wouldn’t be surprised if he’d followed it up by ordering an espresso. The ensuing courtroom drama centres around Caspar Leinen (Elyas M’Barek), a novice attorney who accepts his first case to defend an unresponsive Collini, whose refusal to speak fuels the search for a motive.
A convoluted conflict of interest begins to unfold when Leinen discovers that the victim was the man who had taken him in as his benefactor and nurtured his law career. What follows is a series of visually striking yet inconsistent flashbacks that establish a father-son relationship between the two, before unveiling Meyer’s murky past in a historical appraisal of the darkest period in German history.
Despite some slick cinematography, a suitably varied colour scheme and effective use of wide shots, the film’s dramatic atmosphere suffers from awkward editing choices, heavy-handed music cues and a formulaic screenplay. In the third act, however, a series of twists that critique the modern German establishment’s complacency towards postwar legal manipulations elevate the script beyond the cliché-ridden first two acts.
The Collini Case raises some compelling questions regarding the mutability of law and the political temperament of rigid institutions. Franco Nero poignantly conveys Fabrizio Collini’s confrontation of the subdued traumas of war, albeit often through his eyes alone. On the other hand, shots of Elyas M’Barek punching air in a boxing ring over melodramatic music serve only to obfuscate the narrative.
Published 9 Sep 2021
Eager to see how this bestselling legal drama translates to the screen.
Superficially entertaining in a pulpy way.
Questionable and vaguely predictable narrative choices.