Reviewed at Vienna Film Festival, Oct. 22, 1994. Running time: 60 MIN.

Reviewed at Vienna Film Festival, Oct. 22, 1994. Running time: 60 MIN.

When Andreas Gruber was shooting his POW escape pic “The Quality of Mercy” he invited Bernhard Bamberger to make a behind-the-scenes docu comparing the movie with actual events and the current attitudes of residents in the area. “Aktion K” perhaps unintentionally undercuts Gruber’s movie by showing it for the play-acting it is, but also removes the blinders from anyone who thinks Nazism was vanquished in 1945.

Sobering, well-made film (aside from some heavy-handed use of music) looks ripe for exposure on serious international webs. Fiftieth anni of the escape is Feb. 2.

Of the 519 Russians who escaped from Mauthausen concentration camp, only nine survived. One of these, Mikhail Ribchinsky, returned during filming to retrace his path to safety.

Gruesome archive footage shows barely alive, skeletal men paraded naked before the camera, a far cry from the slim young actors in Gruber’s pic. Docu plays on such contradictions by showing actors in boots and blankets sitting down to plates of warm food after filming a scene of shivering prisoners sipping watery soup. In a nearby bar, actors portraying Nazis discuss how easy it would have been to follow orders.

Ugliest moment in Bamberger’s interviews of local Austrians comes when a cadaverous old man in national costume sits in his comfortable home lecturing Bamberger on Hitler’s intrinsic correctness.

Aktion K



A Provinz Film production. Produced by Andreas Gruber. Directed, written by Bernhard Bamberger, from an idea by Gruber.


Camera (color, B&W; Beta SP), Jerzy Palacz, Karl Kremsmuller; editor, Evi Romen; sound, Stephan Wagner.

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