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Film Review: "Labyrinth of Lies"


Fifteen years after World War II, young German lawyer Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) graduates from prosecuting traffic violations to putting his entire country on trial, in the post-WWII drama "Labyrinth of Lies." When a journalist (André Szymanski) barges into the public prosecutor's office claiming to have proof that a local schoolteacher was a former guard at Auschwitz, no one wants to take the case. Radmann has never even heard of Auschwitz himself, but he's intrigued enough to look into the accusations. What he discovers changes his life forever, as he learns the horrors of the camps and the many ways his country has allowed the atrocities of its past to be swept under the rug -- including allowing the perpetrators of those crimes to slip back into their lives as ordinary citizens.

Based on the true story of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of the 1960's -- which brought 22 of the camp's rank-and-file up on murder charges -- "Labyrinth" follows the formula of films of its type: a young idealist takes on the establishment, putting everything on the line to do the right thing. But this film does it well. Fehling is quite good as Radmann (a composite character based on the three lawyers who actually worked the case), conveying his naiveté as well as his later disillusionment. Looking with suspicious eyes upon any man of a certain age he happens to pass on the street, Radmann is horrified to learn his place in a society entirely content to live in denial.