Der Hauptmann - The Captain

Der Hauptmann also known as The Captain (2017)

TITLE: Der Hauptmann

Der Hauptmann, also known as The Captain, tells the story of a young German soldier, Willi Herold, who becomes separated from his units during April 1945 and ends up fighting for survival, in the last moments of World War II, when he finds a Luftwaffe captain’s uniform. Whilst impersonating a Luftwaffe officer, Willi Herold quickly takes on the monstrous identity of the perpetrators he is trying to escape from.

The movie is based on the true story of Fallschirmjäger Willi Herold (born September 11, 1925) and who fought in Nettuno and Monte Cassino, Italy. In April 1945, he got torn from his unit near Gronau – Bad Bentheim, Germany. Willi Herold later “visits” the Strafgefangenenlager Aschendorfermoor and would become known as “The Executioner of Emsland”.

IMAGES: Der Hauptmann
DETAILS: Der Hauptmann
Film Der Hauptmann also known as The Captain
Country Germany
Director Robert Schwentke
Cast Max Hubacher, Milan Peschel, Frederick Lau, Bernd Hölscher
Language German
English Subtitles Yes
REVIEW: Der Hauptmann

Although I think Willi Herold’s story is worth being told, Der Hauptmann missed the shot on being a serious (biography) drama. It’s an inconsistent cut-and-paste of horrific events, that does want to share the brutality of war and the human psyche however missing the shot doing so. I honestly looked forward to “Der Hauptmann” (“The Captain”) yet I am not satisfied after watching. Did Robert Schwentke try to make a serious war drama or more a dark satire? Even at the beginning of the movie, Herold, is being chased by Feldgendarmerie (“Kettenhunde”) and you hear irregular sounds of trumpets in the background.. Why? .. It did not add anything, even taking away the seriousness of the scene.

I don’t think the acting was bad, actually I liked Max Hubacher in his character. However, I think Robert Schwentke messed it all up around the middle of the movie, at the arrival at Camp II (Lager II, Emslandlager Aschendorfermoor), until the end and even during the credits. From then on, everything started to be – almost to the extreme – exaggerated. All events that showed any of the German paratroopers (“Fallschirmjägers”) and camp personnel were shown as an undisciplined, unmotivated, women beating and irregular men.

Later on, more scenes that involve drinking and thus getting drunk, starting fights and initiate executions. It seems Schwentke wanted to bring out the worse in the movie but failed to be deep and serious doing so. Including further scenes were they want to bring order and righteousness, yet they arrive as a dirty, undisciplined bunch, killing traitors then themselves start to loot, get drunk again and of course… a case of jealousy also erupts. There’s no consistency in the movie. It felt like watching a dark satire movie. I hoped to learn more about Willi Herold, his intentions, a backstory, what motivated these men? Rather than a movie which looks like to be more a compilation of brutality based on a subject. Why? What? Where? Who were his accomplices? What happened to them? You only find out if you afterwards do all the research yourself, because in the movie you won’t learn anything at all except that a soldier, named Willi Herold, found a Luftwaffe officer’s uniform and carried out war crimes. The movie was overdone.

I was once really grabbed by the scene when Herold fits the uniform and Gefreiter Freitag comes around and subjects to be under his command… Herold, yet not knowing what to say or to do, he suddenly gains the feeling of power and be able to command men. At first, he was acting after trying on the uniform but then it becomes real when Gefreiter Freitag arrives. Thought that was it. This scene was serious, grabbed you, you known what was going through his mind.. But his actions, intentions later on leaves your clueless. Also, you don’t have the feeling there’s a war raging around.

Even when the credits came, Willi Herold in his staff car “Schnellgericht Herold” with his irregular bunch, drive through a modern city. Near the end, also get out and ask for ID of people sitting on a bench, like it was yesterday that Herold drove the city, looking for traitors and spies. But, you’re starting at the screen asking yourself.. Why? What’s the intention here? .. It describes the whole movie perfectly…

It could’ve been a masterpiece, just like Schindler’s List is in its category, thought it didn’t feel authenticate. You can either watch it in Black / White or in color (on DVD).


WATCH: Der Hauptmann
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