Film of the Month, April 2013: Der Mörder ist unter uns – Der Fall Gehring
Der Mörder ist unter uns – Der Fall Gehring (The Murderer is one of us – The Gehring case)
Der Fall Gehring is a German TV thriller first aired on April 14, 2003 on ZDF and directed by Swiss director Markus Imboden. Christoph Waltz was nominated for ‘The Golden Camera’ as best German actor 2004 for his part as forensic psychologist Martin Bach.
In the marshlands of northern Germany, forensic psychologist Martin Bach (Christoph Waltz) is investigating two murders committed 5 and 9 years ago. Both are apparently performed in very similar ways and Bach concludes that both crimes must have been committed by the same person.
Problem is, that Hans Werner Gehring (the title of the film referring to him) was convicted and imprisoned for the first crime in 1993 and couldn’t have committed the second one 4 years later as he was in prison. Now, in 2002, Gehring still maintains his innocence and attempts suicide in prison.
The case is reopened by public prosecutor Julia Stein and she goes to the village of Helmsbach with psychologist Martin Bach (CW) to reinvestigate the two murders.
Both of the two murdered girls were from the Helmsbach area, both were young and blond with blue eyes and both were sexually mutilated post mortem.
Local sheriff Juergen Lorenz arrested Gehring back in 1993 and is reluctant to see the case reopened. In fact, all of the inhabitants of the village are not amused – the women behind their windows and wine glasses as well as the men at the local bar do as they always do: Join forces against the enemy from outside the village.
Back in 1993, Gehring was an outsider from the big city Hamburg with his radical new ideas and his womanizing behavior – so naturally, in the eyes of the villagers, he was the murderer! Now, they are happy that the case is closed and buried in the marshlands. And now, the state police and this psychology-guy (CW) are digging in the wound. In fact, the local crowd from the bar cuts up all four tires on his car to show their point.
As always, CW is at his best when his character gets stubborn and rebellious. His reaction to the cut up tires is: ‘It just spurs me on!”. And he reminds them what could happen to their daughters as well, with the killer still at large.
That impresses the reluctant local sheriff who has two blond blue-eyed daughters. But when the circle of suspects is narrowed down to four, two of which are his own son in law Kai and Kai’s brother Frank, he quits the investigation unit.
In fact, the two brothers, Kai and Frank Wegner, catch the attention of the camera from the beginning of the movie. Is it true that the imprisoned Gehring is not the murderer? Is it true that one of the brothers committed the crimes – and if so, which one?
This is much more than a whodunit drama. In fact, the identity of the murderer is not as interesting as the way that Bach and Stein dig up the truth and the way that the inhabitants project their fears into strangers. When Gehring was sentenced and sent to prison the case was closed in their minds.
It is almost touching to see the inner fight of the local sheriff – he is the one who caught Gehring and sent him to prison and if Bach and Stein are right he has made a BIG mistake. But at the same time, he is also the father of two young and blond girls with blue eyes …
The dynamic relation of the two brothers Kai and Frank Wegner seems to be the center of the story. Quite early in the film, they are pointed out to us as the main suspects. But which one is the most suspicious? Kai, the educated family man with a babyface, job, new house, beautiful wife, and a cute little daughter? Or Frank with greasy hair, who couldn’t finish an education, lives in a ramshackle shed and gives all the wrong answers to Bach and Stein?
As in ‘Das Geheimnis im Wald’ (Film of the month November 2012), this is also a quest into our own minds as we tend to target the most obvious suspect who fits our prejudices about who would and who wouldn’t commit the worst crimes like rape and murder.
Christoph Waltz was nominated for ‘The Golden Camera’ as best German actor 2004 for his part as forensic psychologist Martin Bach. The prize went to Michael Mendl for his portrayal of chancellor Willy Brandt in ‘Im Schatten der Macht’ (In the Shadow of Power). Waltz’s performance demonstrates his ability to show what goes on inside the character, and he was a worthy nominee for The Golden Camera prize 2004.