Der Richter und sein Henker
“This is the worst autumn we’ve had in a long time.” Death of a police lieutenant, shot in the Swiss Alps, mansion above, village below, cp. The Deadly Game, dir. George Schaefer. “Schmied was wearing a tuxedo under his overcoat.”
“You didn’t take a look at the body?”
“I don’t like corpses.”
“It was in the official report.”
“I don’t like official reports!”
“But you were at the autopsy.”
“Schmied didn’t wear his tuxedo at the autopsy.” End of the Game by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who is among the actors (second theme first, death of a lady in Istanbul thirty years before, cp. The Visit, dir. Bernhard Wicki, also L’Immortelle, dir. Alain Robbe-Grillet) and co-wrote the screenplay with the director, “the judge and his hangman”.
The dead man’s assistant has the case and the fiancée, “that aristocratic walking around.”
“Whatever you do, Anna, don’t worry, it will be all right. I love you, for what you are. Don’t be afraid. They can’t do anything to you.”
Letter G, Gastmann à la Citizen Kane, which carries the implication of Mr. Arkadin (Confidential Report). “Half of China is here, let’s get the hell out.”
“Wolfgang Mozart by Pinchas Zukerman!”
“Robert Schmied, your best man, went to Gastmann’s parties as Dr. Prantl, posed as a professor of history at the University of Munich.”
“My word, Otto, I didn’t know.”
“Schmied was a—spy for a foreign power.” A visit with the Minister. “Of course, I’m not investigating Gastmann... it’s in the best interests of our economy,” the munitions industry is mentioned. “I feel lousy too, but if Gastmann is investigated I would not only lose my career, I would lose my life.”
Nabokov wrote a part for himself in his screenplay for Lolita as the butterfly expert Nabokov fleetingly asked for directions by Humbert Humbert on his wanderings, Kubrick did not film it, Dürrenmatt and Schell remedy the oversight by having their detective go and consult “that famous writer... Friedrich... if anyone would know about Gastmann in that town, he would,” the commissioner has a few of his books including this one somewhere. “Let’s say,” on behalf of the nation Dürrenmatt returns the compliment of The Third Man (dir. Carol Reed).
An old wager, “I have to continue to commit crimes before your eyes... whoever is next,” cp. The Quiller Memorandum, dir. Michael Anderson. At the end the band is playing from Fellini’s 8½.
Richard Eder of the New York Times, “a metaphysical cuckoo clock of a movie, full of talent and fog.” Richard Schickel (TIME), “unconscionable bore”. TV Guide, “Swiss playwright Duerrenmatt, who collaborated on the screenplay, is known for his treatment of the bizarre, and his authority over the filming of this story is evident in the layers of confusion spread over it until the denouement.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “existentialist crime story.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “sometimes fascinating, but finally annoying,” citing Charles Champlin (Los Angeles Times), “addled, overreaching, misjudged, ill-made, wasteful, posturizing, uninteresting and tedious little epic”.
The artist as artiste.
The real trouper, a thoroughly well-read aristocratic Berlinerin whose lament for the city that was is as eloquent as her defense against German critics after the war.
The somewhat complicated method employed by Schell depends on circumstances and is under the sign of Welles in Citizen Kane (Marcel Ophuls has a similar sense of humor, Werner Herzog isn’t very far away).
Quatsch and kitsch are old nemeses, the lady is au courant, the past doesn’t interest her, Proust she read a long time ago.
Temperament, the obligatory roasting (of Fritz Lang, in this instance), Schell at work piecing it together like Welles at his editing table.