Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner and written by Christian Zübert, Robert Gold and Jens-Frederik Otto, based on the book by Ferdinand von Schirach. A young lawyer stumbles upon a vast conspiracy while investigating a brutal murder case. Starring: Elyas M’Barek, Alexandra Maria Lara, Heiner Lauterbach, Franco Nero, Pia Stutzenstein and Peter Prager.
One of the first things you notice about The Collini Case is the quality of the visual, its cinematography and colour palette are rich, luxurious even, the depth to its colours is very enjoyable to watch. It keeps a variety with the occasional wide shots of lovely landscapes, as well as some use of effects which are a tad cliched for historical and political dramas. Its choice to visualise the past rather than have it simply spoken by its characters is debatable whether it truly adds to the story. It feels as though it might have been more impactful to hear it in their words and feel the pain in their voice. Instead using a typical flashback style slightly cheapens its otherwise compelling story, going down a route over used by filmmakers and giving an unoriginal or even insincere feel. The style of this film succeeds best when it keeps things simple, it’s a great story and adding certain flair or flash doesn’t improve it but quite the opposite, hindering its success.
It’s a similar case with the writing, overall it’s strong, entertaining and gripping at times but there are touches that stop it from being excellent. The majority of the issue is its tendency to lean towards the sentimental, the story has a genuine emotion that results naturally but it’s added to with a stereotypical almost saccharine edge. It’s a shame to dull its sharpness, some slight edits to trim that overly sweet fat would elevate it to a higher level. With that exception, the film does move at a good pace, relatively slow but holds a decent atmosphere, as well as a good dose of tension and suspense.
Elyas M’Barek was an interesting choice as Caspar, he does well in the role but at the same time never quite sits perfectly as a strong presence to lead the charge. It’s a solid performance but there are slight elements to it that let him down, particularly in the trial stage, when he does well his facial expressions become a little too arrogant and forgo his professionalism for another cliché of youth and inexperience. On the other hand Franco Nero has so few words to speak in this film and yet gives a fantastic, grave, stoic performance that then gets elevated by an authentic vulnerability and intense sadness. If Nero’s face rings a bell, it may be because he appears in Die Hard 2, Django Unchained and John Wick: Chapter 2, not to mention his huge filmography across almost six decades. Lara, Stutzenstein and Lauterbach are all fantastic support, varying in the size of their roles but each have a positive, impactful presence to add to the mix.
The Collini Case is a gripping drama with a slowly building tension and a surprisingly emotional story. The direction and cinematography create a superb visual and the performances are great. However, there are simply a few choices made with its style that hold it back from excellence, falling into the trap of sentimentality and clichés. That said, it doesn’t take away from the great work being done by this team and it’s more than worth watching.