The Collini Case




Franco Nero makes an impact in a German courtroom thriller of some note.

Collini Case, The

Franco Nero as Fabrizio Collini 


Had this not been a foreign language film with subtitles it would surely have proved a popular mainstream release. The Collini Case is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ferdinand von Schirach which was a huge success on home ground as soon as it appeared (that was in 2011) and it went on to be an international bestseller. This film treatment by Marco Kreuzpaintner captures the popular appeal of a courtroom drama which eventually takes on a darker dimension through being rooted in Germany’s past history. But the film never loses sight of the fact that this is a drama aimed at pleasing a wide audience.


Two elements readily draw the audience into the tale which takes place in the year 2001. Caspar Leinen (Elyas M’Barek) is a young lawyer who in his first court case is assigned to be the public defender of Fabrizio Collini (Franco Nero), an elderly man accused of murder. The prosecutor (Heiner Lauterbach) is a formidable opponent aware of Caspar’s inexperience and the viewer readily identifies with Caspar as a David taking on a Goliath. No less gripping is the mystery behind the killing: Collini chooses to remain silent offering no explanation of why he chose to kill Hans Meyer (Manfred Zapatka), a successful CEO whom he shot three times before smashing his face in.


As befits this kind of story, there are additional complications, notably the fact that Meyer had been a mentor to the young Caspar and that the youth had had a love affair with Meyer’s granddaughter, Johanna (Alexandra Maria Lara). Given this background, Caspar is uneasy about going through with this assignment but realises that he really has no choice. As it turns out, Collini’s silence results in Caspar following up leads that will alter his view of Meyer and unearth the motive behind the killing.


It is possible to raise minor quibbles about the film. On occasion the insertion of flashbacks can seem a bit clumsy, shots of Caspar as a boxer are included as a rather forced metaphor for the court case that he is fighting and the last scene of all scarcely fits the tone that has been established. But what counts here is having a story which, even if not all of its revelations prove to be surprising, grips us throughout the film’s two hours or so. With Kreuzpaintner as director, this is adroit filmmaking and it’s a further gain that it is so well cast. Lara may draw the short straw (Johanna's character is the least well realised), but M’Barek is the ideal actor to encourage our identification with the young hero and Franco Nero as Collini has exactly the right presence to make a strong mark on the film despite having to hold back on what he has to say until the film’s late stages. On its own level as able popular cinema The Collini Case is a success.


Original title: Der Fall Collini.




Cast: Elyas M’Barek, Alexandra Maria Lara, Franco Nero, Heiner Lauterbach, Manfred Zapatka, Jannis Niewöhner, Rainer Bock, Catrin Striebeck, Omid Memar, Tara Fischer, Peter Prager, Hannes Wegener, Sandro Di Stefano.


Dir Marco Kreuzpaintner, Pro Marcel Hartges, Christoph Müller and Kerstin Schmidbauer, Screenplay Christian Zübert, Robert Gold and Jens-Frederik Otto, from the novel by Ferdinand von Schirach, Ph Jakub Bejnarowicz, Pro Des Josef Sanktjohanser, Ed Johannes Hubrich, Music Ben Lukas Boysen, Costumes Gioia Raspé and Manfred Schneider.

Constantin Film/SevenPictures Film/Mythos Film-Peccadillo Pictures.
123 mins. Germany. 2019. Rel: 10 September 2021. Cert. 15.