The Captain is available to stream or buy on all major platforms now, including Amazon Prime Video from 4th September.
The year is 1945, and the end of the Second World War in Europe is just weeks away. The German war machine all but collapsing into chaos as men desperately flee the horror of battle. Despite it being April the landscape is still gripped by winter. The trees bare, and the ground muddy and wet. Suddenly a young man comes into view, running for his life in ragged clothes, his face smeared with blood and dirt. As he looks behind him the hum of a vehicle engine and stinging shriek of trumpets continue to hunt him down; hot bullets flying over his head as his comrades eagerly seek the end of his life. The man is young Willi Herold, a German private desperately seeking shelter from his impending death. The bare forest and roots of an old tree finally providing much-needed cover from his assailants.
So starts writer/director Robert Schwentke’s journey into the horrors surrounding the end of War. And the opportunistic freedoms and darkness it provides, as the true-life story of young Willi Herold unfolds.
Having escaped the soldiers hunting him, young Willi seeks the safety of bombed and rundown local buildings; looting local farmhouses for eggs, chicken and bread, while his life hangs in the balance. But, on finding an abandoned car sitting at the side of a deserted road, Willi’s curiosity is sparked; quickly searching the vehicle for nourishment, only to find a neatly packed suitcase. The contents of which hold a neatly pressed German captains uniform, shirt, underclothes and boots. Realising the potential to transform his rank and gain respect, Willi changes his old torn army clothes for the pristine officer’s outfit; only the trousers slightly too long on his young body.
But if clothes truly make the man, than Willi’s personality also shifts the moment he becomes Captain Herold. As he scoops up a ragbag collection of deserters and criminals into his new and dangerous fold; lies, manipulation and power sitting at the heart of his desire for control at any cost.
The story that unfolds is both stark, relentless and horrific, as the muddy fields and lawless towns of Europe slowly descend into madness. The vice-like grip of Hitlers Third Reich disintegrating all around them, and yet still untouchable in power and presence. But, it is within the horror of twisted morality, power and monstrous action that ‘The Captain’ truly hits its mark. Not only shining an uncomfortable light on the depths to which humans will dive in retaining control. But equally reflecting the strength of Hitler’s ideological power, and the fear of falling foul of its influence. With Max Hubacher’s Captain Herold disturbingly convincing, opportunistic and cunning. A figurative ’emperor in new clothes’ who laps up power and control with devilish glee.
Shot in stark black and white, the cinematography of Florian Ballhaus reflects a ‘wild-west’ atmosphere of lawlessness. One where local people and officers understand the end of War is nye but equally continue to seek the security of instruction. A mist descending that allows a young sociopath to run free of any control in a society built on hatred and power. As a result, The Captain provides us with a horrifying parable of man’s ability to deceive and control. As prey becomes predator; achieving a brief but toxic power and notoriety.
Director: Robert Schwentke