Labyrinth of Lies Parent Guide
The truth can set you free but the price might be higher than you expect.
Parent Movie Review
Parent Previews does not usually review Restricted films. However, we make exceptions when a movie is either aimed at teen viewers or when it has powerful messages that may compensate for content issues.
Frankfurt, Germany circa 1958: World War II has been over for 13 years. West Germans are experiencing an economic boom and are doing their best to forget their Nazi past. Until one day an Auschwitz survivor, Simon Kirsch (Johannes Krisch) recognizes a concentration camp guard teaching school. Shaken by the experience he tells his journalist friend, Thomas Gnielka (Andre Szymanski) who takes him to the police and then the Public Prosecutor’s office. No one is willing to touch the case except for junior prosecutor, Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), whose character is a composite of three German lawyers. What the young man learns as he investigates this case will turn his life and his country upside down.
Radmann’s contemporaries live in a Germany where the Holocaust is unacknowledged and the post-war generation is ignorant of its atrocities. “No one asks questions because no one wants to know,” says Gnielka. Powerful forces within the government and German society want to ensure this does not change. But as Radmann interviews Auschwitz survivors and combs through thousands of files, his anger and horror mount. Frustrated and enraged by the obstruction of the police and their refusal to arrest Auschwitz physician, Josef Mengele, Radmann asserts, “If we let someone like him run free we are doomed. Do you understand?”
Fortunately, the dedicated investigator has a very powerful ally - Attorney General, Fritz Bauer, played with world-weary compassion by Gert Voss. Having survived a Nazi camp, Bauer shares his colleague’s passion for justice. He is also aware of the institutional obstacles in their way and attempts to guide the young prosecutor in developing a successful strategy.
The power of this film comes from Radmann’s courage in delving beneath the comfortable lies his society has created to cover its unspeakable history. His integrity, passion for the truth, capacity for hard work, and persistence in the face of despair and disillusion are traits worth emulating. Parents will appreciate these positive messages for both themselves and older teens.
However, there are issues that parents will want to consider before viewing this film. Obviously, any movie that focuses on the Holocaust will have violent and disturbing content. Labyrinth of Lies manages to evoke the brutality of Auschwitz without a lot of descriptive detail, which parents will appreciate. Other problems with the film include the use of alcohol: as Radmann becomes increasingly wrapped up in the investigation, he begins to drink more heavily, eventually becoming so drunk he accosts strangers on the street, asking if they are Nazis. And there is also a scene of sexual activity where Marlene (Friederike Becht), Radmann’s girlfriend, comes to his apartment and strips down to her underwear. Viewers then see her back as he removes her bra. The couple are shown on his bed, with suggested sexual activity.
Content issues aside, the movie provides uplifting messages in the face of darkness. The first message is on a societal level: every community has the power to face its own demons. This is a German film, shot on site with German actors confronting their own past. (The downside for North Americans is that the movie is in German with English subtitles.) The second message is personal: as Radmann begins to comprehend the scope of the Holocaust, he almost gives into despair. Standing outside the fence at Auschwitz, he finally realizes, “The only response to Auschwitz is to do the right thing yourself.” And that is a message parents will want their teens to hear.Directed by GiulioRicciarelli. Starring Alexander Fehling, Andre Szymanski, Johanes Krisch, Gert Voss. Running time: 124 minutes. Theatrical release November 6, 2014. Updated September 6, 2018
Labyrinth of Lies
Rating & Content Info
Why is Labyrinth of Lies rated R? Labyrinth of Lies is rated R by the MPAA for a scene of sexuality
Violence: A man attacks and yells at another man. There is a discussion of torture conducted on children in Auschwitz. Characters talk about Nazi atrocities in concentration camps. The main character gets angry and throws his phone on the floor. He gets angry with his mother and pushes her out of his office. While he is drunk, he tears a dress and knocks over a mannequin in his girlfriend’s shop. He then accosts strangers asking if they were Nazis. A man dreams that he sees himself in a mirror with his hands and face bloody from gruesome medical experiments.
Sexual Content: A woman kisses a man she cares for. A woman goes to a man’s apartment. She strips down to her underwear. Her back is shown as the man undoes her bra. The couple are seen in bed together, covered by a blanket. Sexual activity is implied.
Profanity: There are a handful of minor profanities and a scatological term.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink alcohol in social situations. The main character drinks as his case makes him stressed and angry. The main character gets very drunk after hearing troubling news. Characters smoke and the main character starts smoking frequently as pressure mounts.
Page last updated September 6, 2018
Labyrinth of Lies Parents' Guide
Are there dark chapters in your country’s history? What are they? Do we have an obligation to uncover historical tragedies or will that simply reopen old wounds? Do we have an obligation to work towards reconciliation and restitution? What price do you think we should pay for truth and justice?
To this day there are people who deny that the Holocaust ever took place. Why do people want to ignore unpleasant historical facts? What obligation do we have to speak out for truth?
In the film, Attorney General Bauer says, “All those who participated who didn’t say no: they are Auschwitz.” What responsibility do individual citizens have to prevent atrocities or wrongdoing? Have you ever had to stand up for your principles or to protect another person?
Related home video titles:
Israeli intelligence hunts down Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Operation Finale. This operation is referenced in Labyrinth of Lies.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch incurs the wrath of his Depression-era Southern town by defending an African-American who has been wrongfully accused of assaulting a white woman.