Tv crime thriller “murderous silence”: chips away at planing world politics

The material could have been made into an exciting genre piece. With a Jan Josef Liefers, who as a taciturn and melancholy inspector is in every respect the opposite of the ego/eccentric Professor Boerne he embodies from the Munster "Tatort". With an expressive Sylvie Testud, of whom we know since "Jenseits der Stille" that she needs no text at all for her expression. So now she again plays a deaf woman, Kuhnert’s (Peter Lohmeyer) wife, to whom the taciturn inspector feels very attracted and she to him, it remains purely platonic. What nice ideas for a small, concentrated 90-minute thriller. If that were enough for you.

But author and director Friedemann Fromm is not someone for whom that would have been enough. He received a lot of praise for his television series "Weissensee" about an East Berlin family close to the state in the eighties. Exactly one year ago, he wanted to go one better and create an internationally accessible political panorama of a united Berlin with the very ambitious multi-part series "Die Stadt und die Macht" (The City and the Power). For this, there was more censure than praise.

Press booklet prose

And so now: "It is about a hitherto little-known topic in the foothills of the Kosovo war … Fromm researched for several years for this film."

But the press booklet prose does not change the fact that the NATO brothels of the Kosovo war do not appear in the film. Except in a snippet of film on a memory card, which fortunately doesn’t document a rape in too much detail. Except in such an explanatory monologue: "The problem of NATO whores is hushed up by all the armed forces stationed in the respective crisis areas. It is difficult to explain that we send soldiers to put an end to injustice, and then these very soldiers go to brothels that have been set up especially for them. And this is done by local pimps who force the women to procure for them, often with the help of soldiers."

Alone: "Nobody really wants to negotiate this because nobody really wants to know what it’s like when there’s a war. Women like Elena are just chips that fall under the table when you’re planing world politics." It’s hard to believe that such well-scripted rhetoric should be based on years of research.

It’s hard to believe that such sophisticated script rhetoric can be based on years of research.

It comes there one to the thickly applied other. The commissioner’s colleague (Ivan Anderson) must not simply have a Turkish immigrant background. No, she has to prove her street-robbery non-stop by using – very artificial – vulgar language. And in a subplot, she then also has to occupy the topic of forced marriage. And the Commissioner’s taciturnity and melancholy must not simply be nature, they must be trauma. But this can only be revealed little by little.

Penetratingly nebulous

So Fromm first rides on this trauma in a penetratingly nebulous manner for a full hour, only to finally become even half concrete: "I didn’t have to shoot the man. At that time. With the girl. I wanted to kill him. Because I was too late." Thus, the supposed courage to leave gaps, to not tell the story, comes across as rather textbook. Could it be because Fromm teaches directing at the Hamburg Media School?

"Murderous Silence," Monday, January 9, 8:15 p.m. on ZDF.

Then he should actually know what a "MacGuffin" is. That’s what Hitchcock called what motivates and drives a crime or thriller plot. The memory card with the incriminating film snippet would have been an ideal MacGuffin for him.

But in 1935, there were no memory cards. And so Hitchcock has the hero in "The 39 Steps" chase after documents whose contents are completely unknown to him. Only at the very end does he learn that they contain the formula for a silent airplane engine.

Just imagine for a moment if Hitchcock had announced his film like this: "It’s about a subject hitherto little known to the public, I’ve been researching it for several years: silent airplane engines."

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