In Frankfurt of the 1950s, public prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) believes that those who served at Auschwitz have cases of murder, cruelty and abuse to answer. The trouble is that few others think there is a story to be told, since many of the atrocities carried out at the camp have been covered up. With the help of a small team, and some survivors of the camp, Radmann sets out to get justice for the survivors, and tell his country what really happened during World War II.
There seems to be a surfeit of films about World War II in Germany every year, but Labyrinth of Lies is different; in showing the story of a public prosecutor trying to show the German people the truth about what happened in Auschwitz – which is in turn based on true events – the film addresses the immediate aftermath of World War II, and how the authorities of the time tried to cover up the crimes committed at the camp.
Alexander Fehling leads the cast here, and quickly shows Radmann to be a stickler for justice – even when it means lending a woman the full amount of money she is fined – but it is exactly this that causes him to get involved with the case of the Auschwitz survivors. Fehling is strong in the role; his reactions double as those of the audience and we root for this man to see justice and truth prevail. Elsewhere, André Szymanski plays Thomas, a journalist and friend of Radmann, Friederike Becht takes on the role of outspoken love interest Marlene and André Szymanski plays Simon Kirsch, an Auschwitz survivor whose tale of how his family died is heartbreaking and moving.
Screenwriters Elisabeth Bartel and Giulio Ricciarelli make Labyrinth of Lies the story of a cover up, and the collective desire of the German people to blank out the events of just a few years before, and this is where the strength of the film lies. Through learning history, and seemingly endless films about the unspeakable horrors those in camps like Auschwitz suffered, the audience is well aware that the events the characters are trying to expose are true. Therefore, by making the film about how the former Nazi Party members simply went back to their lives after the events of World War II, and how a handful of people believe this to be unacceptable, the film is one of secrets and lies, justice and exposing the truth. The dialogue in the film is strong, there is little lingering done on the accounts of the survivors, in favour of allowing the film to keep moving.
Director Giulio Ricciarelli makes Labyrinth of Lies a political thriller and, although the pacing struggles a little when Radmann becomes obsessed with catching Josef Mengele passing through Germany, for the most part the film is well paced, quick and engaging. The story of the film is well paced and unusually, the romance doesn’t seem to be shoehorned in for the sake of humanising the character; instead Marlene actually has a lot to do, and does it well.
In all, Labyrinth of Lies is a gripping thriller, that tells the horrific truth about Auschwitz from a different angle. The cast are strong and, apart from a slight wobble when the focus of the film shifts, Labyrinth of Lies is well paced, engrossing and revealing.