April 2012: Polizeiruf 110 – Die Lettin und ihr Lover

by April 23, 2012

Film of the Month April 2012

Polizeiruf 110 – Die Lettin und ihr Lover

(„Police Call 110 – The Latvian and her Lover“)*

 

Written and directed by Titus Selge for the small screen as part of the “Polizeiruf 110” TV series, the episode “Die Lettin und ihr Lover” is the third case for Selge’s investigator Kriminalhauptkommissar (Police Chief Inspector) Thomas Keller, played by Jan-Gregor Kremp. It first aired in 2006.

Selge wrote and directed a total of four episodes about that character, located in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe. While doing so, he apparently went through his experimental phase – unfortunately.

Often using Flashbacks und dream sequences, he disturbs the story more than pushing it on. He also tries too hard to give it an unique style. To give an example, in the first episode, our hero comes back to his hometown and sells the house he was born in, he inherited from his recently deceased father, to a business woman who uses the house to open a brothel (he sometimes comes back there when he needs help). This is supposed to be outstanding in the series, but just seems forced.

The episode “Die Lettin und ihr Lover” is the best one out of the four.

The story starts when our hero awakens from a terrible nightmare – or is it just beginning?

His back is a mess and only fragments of what happened the last night remain in his memory. He dreamt about a spider, amber and a fight with a blonde woman. Has he seen her before? Is that a dream or reality?

Time for a shower!

His question gets answered soon enough when he gets called to a scene of crime. A blonde woman was found half-dead in her bathtub – it’s the woman from his dream!

When he gets told that the woman was raped, a terrible thought comes to his mind; is he, the Chief Inspector, the rapist they are looking for?!

We get to try to puzzle the last night together with him. Of course we are not supposed to do this without the help of his girlfriend Sophie, played by Inga Busch, the owner of a restaurant. Here we come across our running gag for this episode: the Italian waiter has just bought a new coffee machine, Italian quality! Unfortunately something is wrong with it and it makes a real mess each time somebody tries to brew a coffee with it. We quote his girlfriend: “Couldn’t you just have bought a Swiss one!”. Apparently not.

He tells her about his day. The whole mess started when he was running in the woods and tried to pick up a dead and squirrel. And ouch – a triple prolapse!

A friend recommends a doctor to him and he learns that it is his old friend Dr. Juris Grins (yes, this does translate to the same word), played by Christoph Waltz! Unlike he remembered him, the doctor is in a miserable mood has a rather fatalistic view on life. He helps our hero with an “unofficial” box of morphine pills. That’s alright, the doctor takes those, too!

There’s only one prescription after a day like this and it is called party!

So cop and doctor spend their evening in a dance bar where our hero first sees the blonde woman from earlier. They order themselves a drink, a beer for the cop and water for the doctor. Juris tries to warn Keller that morphine and alcohol are vicious combination, but Keller is a cop so he never listens to anybody. As they watch the dancers, Juris tells Keller that he dated the woman once but they didn’t fit together. The woman is from Latvia and her grandmother thought they would fell together although only Juris’s father was Latvian.

The hour grows older, our hero gets drunk. Just when he thought this day couldn’t possibly get any worse, they find the owner of the bar in his wine cellar – dead. It appears that he fell down the stairs.

The Latvian woman is taken to the police office as a witness but doesn’t seem to speak German. They have to let her go and our hero, drunk as he is, thinks it grand idea to go to her flat to question her himself. He finds out that she in fact does speak German and finds a picture of a mansion by the shore in Riga. She explained that it’s where she used to live as a kid and hopes to buy it back one day. Then he, after taking another sip of booze, just passes out on her bed. Or did he?!

More fragments of his memory pup up and he remembers fighting with the woman in her bathroom. Did he really do it?!

So far the story of the night before goes. While Keller drives to the hospital, where the woman is treated, to try and puzzle the night together with the woman, Sophie decides that she will have to solve the case – again.

To make things more complicated than they are, Keller is told by the owner of the morgue, another rather bizarre character and Keller’s sidekick, that the owner of the bar didn’t die because of the fall and somebody must have helped with his death. So he now has two cases to solve instead of one.

Meanwhile Keller’s assistant, who recently had been rated as a poor cop who shouldn’t be a Police Inspector at all and rather give out speeding tickets instead, is determined to solve this case to proof his value. Things become even more interesting for him when an old woman insists she saw somebody that night who looked like his boss leaving the house where the woman lives. So Super Cop sees a chance to not become the hero of the day, but also to rid himself of the boss he hates. Unfortunately, he is so pleased with himself that he just has to talk about it in the toilet in the police office – while Keller is using one of the cabins and hears it all. So he manages to escape from the office despite of his messed up back.

Sophie gets to meet Juris, who came to her restaurant for a meal. So she asks what he did to Keller about his back and upon answering the question, Juris accidently slips that it’s rather unlikely to forget an entire night over morphine and beer. Ooooops!

Sophie has to find out more about this.

Keller decides he will need help in this and seeks out Super Cop who he thinks a loyal assistant. Super Cop suggests he could hide in his party cellar, he’s got supplies for weeks down there and the room is such a mess that his wife would never go in there. Keller agrees but then Super Cop locks the door and gone he is.

Super Cop visits the woman in hospital and she identifies the man from the picture Super Cop had drawn on behalf of what the old woman had seen, as his boss. That really lightens up his day. He gathers up the cops from their department to have Keller arrested – and even storms into his own house! His wife isn’t exactly happy about that – somebody will end up sleeping on the couch for that – but Keller is gone already. Super Cop feels himself closer to those speeding tickets.

Keller visits the Latvian grandmother to find out more about the woman and that mansion in Riga. She tells him about Juris dating her granddaughter, unfortunately not a perfect match, and the days back in Latvia where they lived and ran a hotel.

Then Keller and Super Cop happen to meet again in the woods where Super Cop and the rest of the police office are training for the big running test that is due soon. Keller runs of and, in a quite hilarious scene, an entire police office isn’t enough to catch a man with a wrecked back. Super Cop even ends up face first in a puddle of mud. Somebody is bound to be “promoted” to speeding tickets soon. After escaping his colleagues for the minute, Keller hides in Sophie’s restaurant where the cops soon enough show up. She helps him escape in the most embarrassing ways of all – in a garbage truck. After he’s dropped off at the dumpsite, he phones Sophie who has him washed (his smell could wake the dead) and offers him her help. He tells her what he thinks he has done and refuses her. Sophie is really sad about that and watches him leave.

Keller is seeking out Juris for help in his rooms. Unfortunately, Juris is high on morphine and not being exactly helpful. Instead of helping him to puzzle out what happened, Juris helps himself with another shot of morphine and quotes Schopenhauer. At least Juris can help our hero’s back with another shot of morphine (he has an ample stock of it). While Juris lies down on his couch, Keller decides hat his morphine-addicted friend isn’t likely to help him out of this mess in his condition and leaves.

 

Sophie meanwhile has spent her night getting really drunk over her anger. She wants to give up on Keller, but then her Italian waiter has a serious talk with her, reminding her that she loves the guy and shouldn’t give up just yet.

 

And then our story speeds up.

 

Will Keller get out of this mess? Where does the chase lead us to in the end? Is Juris in a better mood when he’s not high? Who killed the bar owner? Does Super Cup end up giving out speeding tickets? Will the coffee machine finally make coffee?

You have to watch it to find out what a spider, a doppelganger and a box of matches that reads “LAIMA” have to do with it all.

Waltz is delivering a good performance as the character Dr. (= M.D.) Juris Grins who remains intransparent over the entire movie. What his motives are for moving back to the city, why he is running his practice there or why he is only accepting on arrangement – he keeps it to himself. About the origin of his morphine-addiction, we can only speculate. The character has a dark side to him that is interesting to explore. Waltz is always in control of his character, also during the scenes when the doctor is high on morphine. He works out the difference well between his “trips” and his normal behaviour he shows when dating the woman. Around the woman, he is really charming, around Keller, he’s miserable and in a need for distraction. Altogether, it’s a performance worth watching.

Summing things up, the movie could have been good, but director Selge wasted much potential by losing himself in his pursuit for an unique style. He never can keep the focus on one aspect of the story and overuses the flashback sequences, making them tiresome to watch. It could have worked if it wasn’t all over the movie. Following the story straighter, and keeping the actual case Keller has to solve in the main focus of the movie would have made it a good movie, but it only comes out as an average police movie.

Which is a shame really as the characters are interesting, the story is good and it has some memorable scenes. The pursuit through the woods is hilarious, the connection between Keller and Juris adds tension to the story and how the relation between Keller and his girlfriend Sophie is building up is interesting to follow, too. The pictures (outside the dream sequences) are well shot and the atmosphere they transport fits the story well.

“Die Lettin und ihr Lover” is worth giving it a try. Despite the flaws it has, it is an entertaining movie worth watching once or twice. While Juris doesn’t find his place among Waltz’s “instant classic” characters, you’re also not wasting your time by giving him a chance.

- Ghost

* 110 is the emergency police call number in Germany, comparable to 911 in the US

Christoph Waltz Fans