Michael Kohlhaas (2013)

Michael Kohlhaas
Director: Arnaud des Pallières
Writer: Arnaud des Pallières, Christelle Berthevas
Based on: Heinrich von Kleist‘s novella
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Mélusine Mayance, Delphine Chuillot, David Kross, Bruno Ganz, Denis Lavant, Roxane Duran
Part of: Viennale

Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen) trades with horses. To reach the market he has to cross the lands of a young nobleman who doesn’t want to let him pass without a special document. Michael leaves him two horses as collateral and promises to return with it. But it turns out that there is no law that demands such a document and when Michael returns, it is to find his horses in a woeful state. He asks for justice in a legal manner, but all his requests are turned down and the repercussions are great. So he takes the law into his own hands.

Michael Kohlhaas is a slow film. Most of the time that makes it extremely atmospheric and gives the cast room to work, sometimes it means that it drags on a bit. But it is very worth watching.


I haven’t actually read the novella this is based on (just the first chapter), so I can’t make any comparisons in that direction. But the movie certainly piqued my curiosity and as soon as I invent a time turner/discover my time travelling abilities/have holidays, I think I’ll give it a go.

The story is certainly bleak. And I’m pretty sure that Michael Kohlhaas must have been some kind of proto-Stark. Maybe George R.R. Martin read the novella? His belief in what is right and his rather brittle sticking to just that certainly fit the general family honor. [Though there are also parallels to Stannis Baratheon.] Anyhoo, I’m supposed to talk about the film, aren’t I?


As I said the movie works slowly, with long, beautiful shots and a whole lot of room for the cast. And considering everybody who pops up in the cast, that’s certainly a good thing. And of course Mads Mikkelsen who carries this movie with ease (and also gets naked – which is always a plus). I especially enjoyed the relationship his Michael had with the daughter Lisbeth (Mélusine Mayance).

The slow pace gets a little too slow towards the end, but I never grew actually bored, just a little restless. Altogether, I really enjoyed it, even if I had hoped to see a bit more of the princess because Roxane Duran rocked that role.


Summarizing: Yes, see it.


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