Reviewed at Hollywood Film Festival (competing), Aug. 6, 1999. Original title: Rosenzweigs Freiheit. Running time: 90 MIN.
With: Benjamin Sadler, Christoph Gareissen, Peter Roggisch, Gertrud Roll, Felix von Manteuffel, Uyen Van Thi Dao, Pierre Franckh.
Welding such rich issues in Germany as neo-Nazi violence, tolerance of immigrant minorities, the judicial system, the imbalances between the nation’s west and east and the weight of being a German Jew in the ’90s should make for hefty conflict, but Liliane Targownik’s “Rosenzweig’s Freedom” is a serious disappointment. Created for German web SWR and showing all the visual signs of a telepic, ultra-talky drama will prove a tough sell in theatrical and small-screen markets except Israel, where interest in Germans dealing with anti-Semitism is inherently strong.
Ineptly staged prologue shows working man Michael Rosenzweig (Christoph Gareissen), his Vietnamese wife (Uyen Van Thi Dao) and family attacked by firebombing skinheads, leading to Michael’s fleeing and the killing of a neo-Nazi leader. Though it’s obvious that Michael didn’t do it, his lawyer bro (Ralph Fiennes look-alike Benjamin Sadler), has an uphill fight on his hands, and Targownik’s inelegant pacing, on-the-nose plotting, bland camerawork and endless talk drain the drama of all energy. Sadler’s quiet intelligence suggests smoldering star appeal, while Gareissen badly overplays during Michael’s big scenes. Pic won Hollywood fest’s best feature prize for film over $ 1 million budget.