November 2012: Das Geheimnis im Wald
“Das Geheimnis im Wald”: (The Secret in the Forest), 2008:
One morning, 15 year old Clara Tomrad disappears on her way to school in the beautiful Harz Mountains. The police put a ‘Sonderkommission’ (Special Police Unit) on the task of solving the mystery and hopefully finding her alive. They form temporary headquarters in the closed school of the town of Michenbach with boarded windows, flaking walls, and child sized furniture. This is a visual hint to the gap between the idyllic facade of the town and the secrets, psychological repression, and abuse of power underneath. This gap seems to be the theme of the movie and is the drive of the plot.
Immediately after Clara’s disappearance, Christoph Waltz’s character Hans Kortmann is a suspect. He is a former school teacher who has recently been released after 15 years in prison for the murder of 15 year old Melanie Bauer. Her dead body was found in his garden at the time of the crime. He declares his innocence in both cases but nobody believes him.
As an audience, we have the same view and knowledge of the present and the past as does the police of the town in the forest: We suspect him for several reasons:
- Because of this former sentence
- Because of his (too?) close relationship to both girls (he openly declares his love for the dead Melanie Bauer, and he has recently photographed the missing Clara)
- Because of his stubborn and non-cooperative behavior towards the police.
Furthermore director Peter Keglevic, in casting Mr. Waltz, might be taking advantage of the fact that Christoph Waltz has portrayed the perpetrator more than once in his former movies.
Obviously, Clara’s family is very worried. But whereas her mother is expectedly crying and sleepless, her father roams the forest, bewildered and upset in search of his missing daughter. Her grandfather, the tycoon of the Michenbach, is convinced that Kortmann is guilty and wants the police to put him under pressure, regardless of the lack of evidence. And as he is a very powerful man in the area, they follow his orders.
But is there more to the story than meets the eye? There is a lot of lies and delusion going on at many levels that are revealed as we follow police officer Steffen Gellhagen dig deeper and deeper in the town of Michenbach.
Once again, Christoph Waltz’s character is a conflicted, complicated man. Only this time, he is a victim of his own quest for justice.
The film is worth a watch because of the beautiful landscapes, fine performances, and because it gives our prejudices about good and evil a gentle push. Furthermore, it is one of Christoph Waltz’s last performances in Germany before Inglourious Basterds.