Feature film about real child murderer: naturally biased

Pedophiles did not officially exist under socialism. "Mord in Eberswalde" misses the chance to make more of the subject than black-and-white painting.

Good and evil: the commissioner (Ronald Zehrfeld, r.) and the Stasi. Image: Wolfgang Ennenbach/WDR

Gray and ocher brown. Already in Christian Petzold’s great GDR film "Barbara" these color nuances determined the aesthetics – and the film "Mord in Eberswalde" adds to that on Wednesday evening. The not least aesthetic bourgeoisie of the GDR is widely exhibited – demonstrated. Just look at the wallpaper.

The hero of the story (book: Holger Karsten Schmidt) is a police captain – in the GDR, even police ranks sounded military. He is a nonconformist, someone who wants to solve the terrible murders of children in the woods around Eberswalde at any cost. Must. Just as the commissar in Durrenmatt’s "Promise" once made a promise to the mother, the captain has made a promise to a father. And such men are bound by a promise.

The captain is cast with Ronald Zehrfeld, who has also given such an unflinching loner in Dominik Graf’s "The Invisible Girl", who not only had to search for a murderer, but also overcome the resistance inherent in the system. But that was in Franconia, not in the GDR.

And that’s why – and because both films are based on a very real case – it’s good to revisit precisely this film by Graf. Otherwise, the Federal Republic would come off all too well. No scene in "Mord in Eberswalde" takes place in the FRG, but it is always present. The fact is that a parallel series of murders of children has just taken place there.

The hero is naturally unbiased. He has an antipode (Florian Panzner). A former childhood friend and current Stasi careerist who beats his wife (Ulrike C. Tscharre), with whom the hero is sleeping, by the way. The childhood friend says: "We certainly don’t have a pedophile, homosexual sadist in Eberswalde." Reason: "Because such individuals cannot exist out of the socialist system."

The hero does not let himself be hindered and finds the murderer, who is marked as severely mentally disturbed. What follows: Trial, death sentence, close shot in the back of the head.

The child murderer in the West, on the other hand, gets an appeal. The Stasi man therefore calls the FRG "an absurd, ramshackle system". Of course, however, it is the GDR that is being paraded: The anti-fascist protective wall also protects the GDR judiciary from the principle of guilt.

What, for example, is not said: that Erwin Hagedorn, the last civilian executed in the GDR, also had an appeal procedure beforehand. Or that the West German murderer Jurgen Bartsch was convicted and later died during a castration operation. But then, unfortunately, "Murder in Eberswalde" is not that differentiated.

"Murder in Eberswalde," Wednesday January 30, 8:15 p.m., ARD

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