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Der Blaue

A neatly turned script, engaging performances and smooth direction mark "The Blue One" as an accessible German item that could find a niche in offshore TV slots. Dominated by a fine study in political Machiavellianism by Manfred Krug, this cat-and-mouse drama about a former Stasi agent and his resurrected victim reps a satisfying return to features by writer/director Lienhard Wawrzyn after some eight years.

A neatly turned script, engaging performances and smooth direction mark “The Blue One” as an accessible German item that could find a niche in offshore TV slots. Dominated by a fine study in political Machiavellianism by Manfred Krug, this cat-and-mouse drama about a former Stasi agent and his resurrected victim reps a satisfying return to features by writer/director Lienhard Wawrzyn after some eight years.

Krug, looking every inch the part, plays an oily German pol, Otto Skrodt, who’s on the brink of attaining the front ranks of government. Though distanced from his daughter, Isabelle (Meret Becker), and formerly from the East, he’s seemingly as clean as a whistle.

Enter youngish, affable Kalle (Ulrich Muehe), an old friendSkrodt hasn’t seen since someone snitched on him when he tried to escape from East Germany. Kalle was also in love with Isabelle. After years in jail, Kalle has two things in mind — to find out who betrayed him and to see Isabelle again.

Rest of pic is an entertaining game of bluff and counterbluff as the two men, under the guise of friendship, circle each other like vultures. Skrodt, anxious to avoid scandal, calls in the services of the former Stasi apparatchik (Klaus Manchen) who first blackmailed him into spying. Final plot twist is weak and smacks of desperation.

Pic opens with aerial shots and a driving score, and nails its colors to the non-arthouse mast. Wawrzyn avoids a straight thriller style in favor of sardonic black humor, propelled by strong characters rather than any abiding air of menace.

Main flaw is that the former friendship between the two very different men not only seems unlikely, but also has to be taken on trust.

Krug, a former East German actor who moved to West Berlin in 1977, is on the money as the Magus-like Skrodt, a seasoned survivor with six balls permanently in the air. Muehe, also from the East, matches him well as victim-turned-hunter, and there’s rich playing from Manchen as a former Stasi agent who’s fallen on hard times. As the daughter in the triangle, Becker is photogenic but underdrawn.

Pic is good-looking. Its title, which isn’t explained till late on, refers to the nickname for unofficial Stasi informers, from the color of their files.

Der Blaue

Production: A Journal Film Klaus Volkenborn, Studio Babelsberg production, in association with WDR, BR, MDR. (International sales: Journal Film Klaus Volkenborn, Berlin.) Produced by Klaus Volkenborn. Co-producer, Ernst Alexander von Eschwege. Directed, written by Lienhard Wawrzyn, from his novel.

Crew: Camera (color), Martin Kukula; editor, Bettina Boehler; music, Wolfgang Hammerschmid; art direction, Dieter Doehl; costume design, Aenne Plaumann; sound (Dolby), Wolfgang Schukrafft , Manfred Arbter. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 18, 1994. Running time: 104 MIN.

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