“It was a dream come true working with Gert Voss,” says emotionally Alexander Fehling.
At the Zurich Film Festival Meet & Greet the Filmmakers today, I sat down with the director of The Labyrinth of Lies, Giulio Ricciarelli, and the main actor, Alexander Fehling.
Both had much to say about their new film, a historical drama based on the Auschwitz trials (Dec. 1963-Aug. 1965). While most know about the Nüremberg trials, very few know about the Frankfurt trials.
The director, who is half German, half Italian moved to Germany when he was 5 years old and has always been interested in history. He even became more fascinated when he started researching the period and discovered that most Germans in the1950’s did not know about Auschwitz. Even chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1949-1963) had said to forget about his part of history and to move on, he tells me.
He saw there was a potential for a film to recount an unknown story. The trials succeeded in charging 22 Nazis, who committed crimes in Auschwitz. Like most he did not know about the trials nor had heard of Fritz Bauer, the state general attorney, who brought to justice some of the criminals.
Fehling and Ricciarelli researched the topic at the Fritz Bauer Institut in Frankfurt during numerous months and met with historians. Fehling talks about his meeting one evening with one of the attorneys of the time, Gerhard Wiese. The man now in his 80’s helped the actor with information about the period and the trials.
Fehling plays Johann Radmann, a young prosecutor in charge of leading the investigation starting in 1958. Fehling recalls that it took him a long time to get ready for this role and to fill the gaps of the missing history. Just like the director of the film, these trials were completely new to him. He could not remember having learnt about them in school nor at home.
Now with this film, it will certainly change as Fehling shares it will be shown in some schools in Germany.
On the set there were no easy days says the director even when he thought it would be an easy one!, he jokes. All scenes were challenging and vital, he adds. Alexander enjoyed working with Ricciarelli and says he and him are very similar. “Ricciarelli knows what he wants, but doesn’t always know right away how to get it, he searches,” he explains, so many scenes had to be redone.
Both had an amazing experience working with the actor Gert Voss, playing Fritz Bauer, in the film. The famous actor passed away this summer without having seen the film. The Labyrinth of Lies was finished in August and when Ricciarelli proposed Voss to show him the rough cut of the film, he refused, saying he would wait for the final movie.
“In a way, I think he watched it,” he says with a strong belief.
Working with him was like magic, shares Ricciarelli. You could never know how he would act. One day the director even cried during a scene he shot. It was when Johann Radmann was coming back from Auschwitz and Fritz Bauer opened the door of his house. The scene was so emotional.
Alexander Fehling talks about the death of Voss as something tragic. “In Germany, he is a legend,” he mentions. “It was a dream come true working with him,” he continues. He taught him that taking risks is important and it is all right to fail.
Alexander Fehling hopes people who see the film will go home having had a compelling experience. And it should be an uplifting film, adds Ricciarelli.
The film is competing for the Golden Eye of the Zurich Film Festival in the section Focus. Results will be given out at the Award Ceremony on October 4th.
Showing Times at the ZFF:
Monday Sept 29th at 6.30 p.m. at Arena 4 – Friday October 3rd at 3.45 p.m. at Le Paris – Saturday October 4th at 7.p.m. at Arena 4.