Tatort: Reifezeugnis

Dir: Wolfgang Petersen
Star: Christian Quadflieg, Nastassja Kinski, Judy Winter, Klaus Schwarzkopf

Back before Roman Polanski (and a snake) turned Kinski into an internationally-renowned face, one of her earliest works was this German TV movie, which would see both her and the director go on to much bigger - if not necessarily better - things. I kept humming Don't Stand So Close to Me throughout, as it concerns a teacher, Herr Fichte (Quadflieg), who has been having an intimate relationship with Sina (Kinski), one of his pupils. When a classmate finds out, he tries to blackmail Sina, but ends up bludgeoned to death. Inspector Finke (Schwarzkopf) comes in to investigate the case, while Sina and Fichte try to stop everything from collapsing around them, as the lies they've both been telling top everyone, start to unravel under the merciless gaze of the police.

Even this early (some reports have this as her acting debut), Kinski's depiction as a lust-magnet was virtually fully-formed, and it has to be said - she'd be hard to resist. [Happily married man disclaimer: I would, of course, succeed in doing so] But this is equally a moral tale: by the time things come to their conclusion, lives have been wrecked and reputations destroyed, though Mrs. Fichte (Winter) greets the revelation that her husband has been pounding a pupil with a great deal more equanimity than I suspect most wives. There's little more than a rolling of the eyes and plans to move to another town, making me wonder if this was perhaps not the first time this had happened, a nice touch of moral ambiguity. There's also the question of how much the murder was pre-meditated and how much it was a crime of passion: the movie leaves this up to you, and indeed, leaves things almost entirely open with regard to the judicial result. Murder? Manslaughter? Self-defense? This is more about the procedure than the outcome. If slightly chilly emotionally - which you might expect from Germany - it's definitely a cut abot normal TV fodder in both content and execution.

[September 2012]

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