Luis Trenker – Der Schmale Grat der Wahrheit
Director: Wolfgang Murnberger
Writer: Peter Probst
Cast: Tobias Moretti, Brigitte Hobmeier, Marc Benjamin, Anatole Taubman, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Barbara Romaner, André Jung, Felix Hellmann
Seen on: 1.9.2015
After World War 2, Luis Trenker (Tobias Moretti) is trying to rekindle his career by forging a diary that he attributes to Eva Bran and wants to see made into a movie. Just before World War 2 though, Trenker was on top of the world. His films were successful and he just met the dancer turned actress Leni Riefenstahl (Brigitte Hobmeier) and they fell in love. But as Trenker finds his films being seen as propaganda, particularly by Joseph Goebbels (Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey), as Riefenstahl starts a movie career on her own behind the camera and as, above all, Trenker’s unwillingness to cooperate with fascist governments in Germany, Austria and Italy grows, he finds himself looking for other possibilities to make films.
Luis Trenker was an interesting film in many aspects, particularly in showing a character with a very difficult, definitely not unproblematic relationship with the Nazis. It has its lengths and weaknesses, but there is much in the departure of the tried formula (evil Nazis and Nazi-collaborators vs. innocent victims) that makes the film still worthwhile.
Of course I don’t know how things really were back then. But the way the film portrays Luis Trenker feels realistic: he was a megalomaniacal opportunist, without a doubt. As long as the Nazi government suited him, he had no problem going along with their propaganda angle or joining the party. But since he didn’t believe in their politics, he also didn’t let himself be taken in entirely. And when he, as a South Tyrolean, had to make the choice between Germany and Italy, things were literally and figuratively too close to home to keep up the opportunism and Trenker’s indecisiveness finally cost him the German support – he didn’t give it up.
With that the Trenker in this film becomes a different kind of collaborator with the Nazi regime than we usually get in films. Not somebody who unquestioningly went along with the atrocities, nor somebody who spoke out and was an activist against them. Rather somebody who did his own thing – and didn’t really look beyond that.
In Riefenstahl, on the other hand, we get a character who refuses to be politicized, not realizing that this refusal is an extremely political stance, a stance that lets war, concentration camps and general carnage and the people responsible for it run unchecked and unopposed. She might think she only ever lived for art, but art doesn’t happen removed from society in its own little protected bubble. It’s right there in the middle of it and it is just as political as everything else.
With those two characters and their uneasy but ultimately not opposed enough relationship with the Nazis, the film becomes a rallying cry for idealism and opposition. To not be content with just thinking about yourself. It tries to hide that cry behind an apparent shallowness, by slight comedy, and by very weird pacing. Maybe it doesn’t even know it’s there. But I managed to find it anyway – and that’s a message I can get behind.