IN THE NAME OF INNOCENCE (Andreas Kleinert, 1997)

Writer-director Andreas Kleinert’s moody, melodramatic Im Namen der Unschuld reflects dislocations wrought by German reunification. The setting is the former East Germany—a small town on the Baltic Sea. Anna Loeser, a former professor of literature, is a voluntary patient at a mental hospital. Marie, her college-age daughter, is murdered in the woods, her body dumped into a lake, on her way home from visiting Anna. The newly assigned head of homicide is a shy, awkward loner whose alcoholism marks self-pity and disillusionment. He is lucky to have a job still. A Saarlander, he supposedly combines French light-heartedness and German profundity, but in truth exhibits neither. Assisting him on the case is his predecessor, who up and quit and now works for the forestry service, in which capacity, he jokes, he talks to trees. The murderer, Robert Kunze, meanwhile, is on his way up. Wealthily married, to someone who can now make her connections work for him, Kunze demonstrates and distributes firefighting equipment. Soliciting a ride from this stranger while impatiently waiting for a bus, Marie quips with youthful confidence, “I start fires,” and Kunze responds that this will give him work to do: a grotesque parody of new German harmony. The murder, proceeding from an attempt to rape Marie, reveals another discombobulated soul. For six months, Kunze has been cheating on his wife with the wife of a friend from student days. The two men will swap wives, marking the job ascendency of Kunze’s friend and Kunze’s downward spiral into permanent unemployment. Oh, Kunze’s capture and trial? Kunze is acquitted once his clever attorney invokes matters involving the East German police: East Germany’s demonization; the scapegoating of history.
     A twice falling autumnal gold leaf exquisitely marks Marie’s death and Robert’s guilt.

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