Cinema Europa / 10th May / 17.00

Der Hauptmann von Köln (Slatan Dudow, 1956)

Der-Hauptmann-von-Koln

It’s difficult to imagine that DEFA was not aware of Helmut Käutner’s interest in adapting anew Carl Zuckmayer’s prewar piece Der Hauptmann von Köpenick – for how else to explain that the studio came up with a film that had a similar title and a comparable subject around the same time; a prestige production at that, like it’s FRG-counterpart, in color, directed by one of the nation’s most outstanding artists? The tone, albeit, is extremely different: Der Hauptmann von Köln offers a panorama of the Bonn Republic whose Brecht’ian wit is acerbic and invariably to the point (starting with the city where it’s all set: Cologne, heart of the Rhineland, home to the nation’s first Chancellor…). Here, the impostor is a waiter named Albert Hauptmann who get’s mistaken with a notorious war criminal (last heard of  overseas…) when he introduces himself subserviently in the old-fashioned way (family name first, given name second); what follows, is his rapid rise to MP and director of a heavy industry giant called Montan AG (a jibe against the French-FRG-led Montanunion, the organizational core of nowadays European Union). At the same time, the real Hauptmann Albert, hiding under the slightly prole’ish name Hans Karjanke, prepares his glorious return to a Germany that obviously needs people like him… Needless to say if maybe more difficult to believe that also Der Hauptmann von Köln is rooted in two true stories: The fate of a baker who in Bad Kreuznach was mistaken for a notorious WWII character and went along with the charade; and the well-publicized case of Fritz Rößler who under the name of Dr. Richter heavily supported a law-in-discussion that guarantied amnesty to war criminals – like him.