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The Man Inside (1990) August 22, 2009

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2009

In minds of an average moviegoers phrase “investigative journalism” is linked almost exclusively to Anglo-Saxon world. However, it could be argued that the most famous and most controversial investigative journalist of 20th Century was German named Günther Wallraff. One of his most audacious and most legendary stunts, described in his books Der Aufmacher and Zeugen der Anklage, served as a basis for THE MAN INSIDE, 1990 thriller written and directed by Bobby Roth.

The film begins when Wallraff (played by Jürgen Prochnow) and his trusted colleague and girlfriend Christine (played by Nathalie Baye) act undercover and expose fascist coup attempt in Portugal. While doing that, they also uncovered embarrassing links between coup plotters and West German government officials. Wallraff thus created powerful enemies, and those enemies are well connected with Hermes Brauner (played by Manfred Andrae), media tycoon whose right-wing tabloid Der Standard happens to be most read newspaper in Germany and Europe. Wallraff is mercilessly attacked on its pages until he gets bold idea – he would turn tables on his persecutors by assuming false identity and taking job of Der Standard’s reporter in order to expose its journalistic malpractice. Plan initially succeeds, but working under tabloid’s scrupless and manic editor Gerhard Schroeter (played by Dieter Laser) starts to take toll on increasingly paranoid Wallraff and endanger his relations with family and friends.

Wallraff’s fascinating story had all the ingredients for powerful journalistic drama. Bobby Roth, unfortunately, lacked talent for that and, like many filmmakers in similkar situation, tried to “spice” Wallraff’s tale with political conspiracy cliches including wiretaps and murderous secret police thugs. Because of that and Roth’s clumsy direction THE MAN INSIDE starts to look cheap, but it looks even cheaper with arrival of Dieter Laser. He plays his villanous character so over-the-top that the film begins to look like unintentional parody of itself. The rest of the cast gives much better impression – Prochnow is very good in the rather complex role of a characters who also plays a role; he also has good chemistry with Nathalie Baye. International cast also includes Peter Coyote who is underused, but gives some texture to his morally ambigous character of Wallraff’s colleague.

Some of the more intriguing moments of THE MAN INSIDE come when Bobby Roth tries to distill some of the complexities of 1970s West Germany (when the actual events took place) into 93 minutes of his thriller. Those familiar with the period and Wallraff’s exploits will in Wallraff’s fictional enemies easily recognise characters and institutions like Axel Springer and his “Bild”. Roth also managed to slip references to Rudi Dutschke and his attempted assassination, one of the more notorious episodes of recent German history. Unfortunately, those references make THE MAN INSIDE even cheaper, especially compared with more recent films that covered those events, like BAADER-MEINHOF COMPLEX. Although mainly watchable due to solid cast, this film looks like a tragic waste of a great real-life character and story.

RATING: 3/10

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