VOD film review: The Collini Case
Matthew Turner | On 12, Nov 2021
Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner
Cast: Elyas M’Barek, Alexandra Maria Lara, Heiner Lauterbach, Franco Nero, Rainer Bock
Where to watch The Collini Case online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner, this German courtroom thriller is based on the best-selling novel by Ferdinand von Schirach, which was inspired by real-life cases. Set in Berlin, the story centres on Caspar Leinen (Elyas M’Barek), a naïve young public defender who’s approached to take the case of 70-year-old Italian Fabrizio Collini (Franco Nero), who’s accused of cold-blooded murder.
Almost immediately, there are complications – not least that the victim, businessman Hans Meyer (Manfred Zapatka) had been Caspar’s mentor/father figure, and Caspar had both spent summers at his house and had a youthful affair with his granddaughter, Johanna (Alexandra Maria Lara). There’s also the fact that Collini refuses to speak, prompting Caspar to do his own investigation into a possible motive. However, he’s not prepared for what he finds.
The sharply scripted film is cleverly structured, beginning as a compelling mystery, before becoming both courtroom drama and conspiracy thriller. The action takes place across three timelines, encompassing the court case in 2001, flashbacks to Caspar’s relationships with Hans and Johanna in the 1980s and a crucial event that took place during WWII.
Kreuzpaintner’s direction throughout is assured, maintaining a decent pace and paying close attention to the demands of the various genres, from the private detective-style investigation to the twists and turns of the courtroom drama to the shocking revelations of the conspiracy thriller. However, the film also has an important point to make – it’s rare that a final caption provokes such an emotional response, but the film revolves around a real-life detail regarding the German legal system that delivers a devastating final punch.
To that end, the film grapples with engaging ideas about the law versus justice, as well as the nature of evil and of guilt and responsibility. In other words, it leaves you with a lot to chew on, and plenty of material for post-film pub discussion.
Elyas M’Barek makes for an eminently engaging lead, pulling you along on a compelling emotional journey as he goes from novice to discovering his own principles and sense of justice, as well as dealing with issues from his past. Veteran actor Franco Nero is utterly devastating as Collini, doing a huge amount of emotional heavy-lifting with just his immovable expression and his haunted blue eyes.
There’s strong support from both Alexandra Maria Lara, who brings unexpected layers to Johanna, and from Heiner Lauterbach as smooth-talking, uber-confident Public Prosecutor Professor Mattinger, the sort of character you long to see taken down a peg or two by an opponent they have decidedly under-estimated.