Cinema Europa / 10th May / 17.00

Der Hauptmann von Köln (Slatan Dudow, 1956)

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.