Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
KINO! ’17: The Verdict
the German Supreme Court nullified a law allowing the Luftwaffe to shoot down
hijacked planes that had been weaponized, many predicted it would provide an
incentive for future terrorists to do exactly that. The waters were further
muddied when then Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung announced he would still
probably give the order to shoot down airliners seized for terrorist purposes.
He ignited a media firestorm, but it was probably prudent to increase the
uncertainty amongst the al-Qaedas, Daeshes, and Hammases of the world. That
uncertainty also extends to German public opinion as well, judging from the
enormous ratings and social media response to Lars Kraume’s The Verdict (trailer here), a television feature adaptation of Ferdinand von
Schirach’s play dramatizing exactly such an extra-legal shootdown, which
screens during the 2017 KINO! festival of German Cinema in New York.
an extra added hook, German viewers were invited to cast their vote to help
determine the verdict of the Federal Republic of Germany vs. Major Lars Koch,
updating the gimmick of Ayn Rand’s Broadway hit, The Night of January 16th. Most of the evidence in the
case is not in dispute. A commercial airliner was indeed hijacked by Islamist
terrorists (a fact conveniently confirmed by their own gloating broadcasts).
They did indeed point the plane towards a football stadium packed with 70,000
fans, nearly all of whom would have likely died, had Maj. Koch not shot the
plane, still carrying 164 innocent passengers and crew, out of the sky. He did
so against the orders of the ranking duty officer, yet it is clear his superior
was greatly relieved when Maj. Koch engaged the airliner anyway.
it is partly due to our proximity to Ground Zero, but the moral case for Maj.
Koch’s actions, 70,000 vs. 164 who are essentially doomed anyway, seems nearly
impossible to question. The prosecutor’s concerns for the dignity of life
denied to the hijacking victims by denying them another five minutes of terror approach
the absurd. Yet, perversely, the guilty verdict scene sounds much more in
accordance with German law, whereas the innocent verdict is more interesting
from a dramatic perspective, but the legal rationale definitely sounds forced.
as a courtroom drama, The Verdict is
tight, tense, and often fascinating. As Maj. Koch, Florian David Fitz so adroitly
balances personal anguish and moral conviction, it almost fatally tilts the
film in his favor. Lars Eidinger is terrific as his sharp-tongued attorney Herr
Biegler. Martina Gedeck is also quite commanding as prosecutor Nelson, almost
managing to sell an argument that could just as logically support the most
extreme anti-abortion prohibitions.
the huge ratings Verdict has scored
all over Europe will spur the German government to better resolve what looks
like a rather awkward constitutional and national security conundrum. To put it
in colloquial American legal terms, the facts seem to be on Koch’s side and the
law seems to be on Nelson’s side, but since this is a German legal proceeding,
nobody resorts to cheap table-pounding. In fact, the German setting (the glass
and steel courtroom, the powder blue uniforms) is rather cinematic and makes it
easier to believe an officer in Koch’s position would face a very public
criminal trial for his actions. It just seems like a very Euro thing to do. Highly
recommended, The Verdict screens this
Tuesday (4/4) as part of this year’s KINO! in New York.
Labels: German Television, KINO '17