THE PLOT THUS FAR
In modern-day Germany, an aging Jewish man is on trial for his seemingly unprovoked attacked on a former German army officer. But as his attorney (Liv Ullman) digs into the facts, it’s revealed that the officer was responsible for the deaths of innocent children in a Nazi concentration camp.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
When elderly Aaron Reichenbacher (Maximilian Schell) attacks wealthy Arnold Krenn (Kurt Hübner) at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport without provocation, witnesses are outraged. But what seems like an open-and-shut case turns out to be anything but. Public defender Gabriele Freund (Liv Ullmann) soon learns that Krenn was a commander at the concentration camp where Aaron’s sister was killed during horrible Nazi medical experiments.
Though guilty, Reichenbach will not communicate with anyone, not even his lawyer, Freund. Thus, she is unable to mount a defense to prevent him from spending several years in prison. To her rescue comes a Nazi-hunting journalist with information on the camp commandant, and Freund decides that her best defense is a good offense. With the help of the journalist and the coerced aid of her ex-husband (Peter Fonda), she attempts to prosecute the commandant for his war crimes.
She and her small daughter are then intimidated and harassed to drop the case by the Germans and a legal system that would rather forget Germany’s past. This might have been a truly engaging film, but it contrives to make every decision for us and burdens the viewer with extraneous, overwritten dialogue about the character’s thoughts, emotions and motives which trivializes the real horror.