The Collini Case is showing in UK cinemas from Friday 10th September; for more details, visit Peccadillo Pictures.
An ageing man slowly walks through a hotel lobby, his shoes leaving traces of blood on the polished marble floor. As he nears a series of sofas and chairs, he sits, a vacant expression on his face, his hands covered in blood. Worrying for his well-being and safety, a hotel employee approaches cautiously and asks, “are you ok, sir”. The man looks up and announces that he killed a man in one of the hotel suites. But what could have led this man to murder another in cold blood? And who is the man lying dead in one of the hotel’s most expensive suites?
Anyone who has read Ferdinand von Schirach’s bestselling novel will already know the answer to these questions. But for those who have not read Schirach’s book, the victim lying in the hotel room is Hans Meyer, a well-known and highly respected industrialist in the twilight of his life. Meyer’s long and illustrious career and charitable work were heralded by the state and its citizens, but did his past harbour darker actions? Meanwhile, in a cell, Fabrizio Collini (Franco Nero), an unknown Italian/German citizen in his 60s with no direct connection to Meyer.
Enter the recently qualified public attorney Caspar Leinen (Elyas M’Barek), who finds himself court-appointed to this highly unusual criminal case as a defence attorney. Intrigued as to why a law-abiding citizen would suddenly kill in cold blood, Casper takes the case without a second thought. But his new client remains silent.
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The legal courtroom drama that ensues digs deep into our very notions of justice through an exploration of history, war, revenge and complicity. Here the opening words of Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg Trials ring in our ears, “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that civilisation cannot tolerate their being ignored.” These words would define the years following World War II as Germany and Europe faced the demons of fascism and the actions that led to slaughter, the holocaust, unspeakable suffering and abuse.
But despite the potency of these words, Marco Kreuzpaintner’s drama reminds us how quickly crimes can be airbrushed from history as time marches forward. Here the urgent need to rebuild from the ruins of the past overtakes the concept of justice at any cost as Kreuzpaintner explores the Dreher Law of 1968.
The resulting drama is enthralling as we follow Casper’s desperate search for the truth, no matter the social costs. Elyas M’Barek’s performance is captivating as his Turkish heritage places him outside of the legal establishment and inside the pressing need for social and historical justice. Here his youth, drive and passion are his trump cards as he dismisses the legal boys club surrounding him in search of the truth. Casper’s journey is a reminder that legal human rights work requires people willing to overturn the fixed boundaries of justice in a world that often looks for an easy route out. After all, as Martin Luther King stated, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”