The Collini Case Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Berlin, 2001 A young German of Turkish origin, Kaspar Lainen (Elias EmBarek), trained as a lawyer and finally got his first serious case: he was appointed public defender for Fabrizio Collini (Franco Nero), an Italian who had lived in Stuttgart for thirty years. A few days ago, Collini came to the hotel, where in one of the rooms there was an influential 84-year-old manufacturer Jean-Baptiste Mayer (Manfred Zapatka). Collini introduced himself as a journalist, however, when he entered the room at the invitation of Jean-Baptiste, he took out a pistol and unloaded it at Mayer.

Collini surrendered to the police right at the hotel, but did not answer any questions. All the evidence is against him, he faces a life sentence. But even when a lawyer was appointed to him, Fabrizio did not say a single word to him either: it seems that he absolutely does not care what sentence the court will pass.

The day after Kaspar received the case, he was horrified to find out that Jean-Baptiste Mayer was the man whom Linen had always known as Hans Mayer, and he was actually a grandfather for Kaspar: Kaspar grew up in the Mayer family, he had a youthful an affair with Hans’s granddaughter, Johanna (Alexandra Maria Lara), who became the heir to Mayer’s fortune, and it was thanks to Hans that Lainen was able to get an education and become a lawyer.

There is a clear conflict of interest, and Kaspar is going to withdraw from the case, although this will obviously have a bad effect on his career, however, the Mayer family invited the largest lawyer in the country, Professor Richard Mattinger (Heiner Lauterbach), who once taught at Lainen, to represent the plaintiff, and When Kaspar told Mattinger that he was going to drop the case, he noticed that in any case there might be some contraindications for him. And the essence of a lawyer’s job is to protect people no matter what! And then Kaspar decides to continue to do this business.

Mattinger’s reasons are clear. He is the representative of the prosecution, and it is much easier for him as a side of the defense to see in front of him a newcomer, his former student, in awe of him, a brilliant lawyer.

However, Linen took the matter seriously, and it is quite possible that he will still get to the bottom of the matter, because it is not the trial or the verdict that matters, but why Collini killed Mayer.


The literary basis of the script of this film is the international bestseller of the same name (it was translated into many languages) by the German writer Ferdinand von Schirach. The success of the book was largely facilitated by the fact that Schirach himself is a well-known criminal lawyer, that is, he knows the topic of legal proceedings very well, and in addition, he was directly affected by the issue of his family past: Schirach’s grandfather was a prominent Nazi figure (in particular, he was the Gauleiter of Vienna) and he was condemned at Nuremberg to twenty years. Ferdinand found out about his grandfather’s past at the age of twelve, and, of course, it was not easy for him to accept this story.

Also, two more significant moments are woven into the plot of the book and the film: the multinationality of modern Germany and the problems and contradictions associated with it, as well as the public condemnation by many Germans of the infamous “Dreyer Law” of May 24, 1968, adopted by the Bundestag, which, thanks to a clever legal trick , allowed many German war criminals guilty of proven atrocities against civilians to escape punishment.

A very good film that I watched with great interest. A young inexperienced lawyer who received a seemingly completely hopeless case: the brutal murder of a respected member of society, all the evidence is available, and most importantly, the criminal refuses to speak. Well, how, one wonders, to protect him at the same time? Caspar doesn’t have any leads at first. In addition, in court, he will oppose Mattinger, which means that Linen is actually a lamb given to the slaughter of a seasoned wolf.

Nevertheless, Kaspar undertook this business with great ardor, and he gradually, thread by thread, nevertheless untwisted this old story and got to the bottom of the truth.

Watching the detective component of this film is interesting and exciting. And I will never agree with those reviewers who say that the film is clearly dragged out and that there are all sorts of lines and episodes that, in their opinion, could be sacrificed.

I don’t see such lines and such episodes there: everything unwinds, albeit gradually, but steadily and systematically, many little things matter and in the process of narration then one way or another they reappear, seemingly random acquaintances or a father with whom Kaspar has not communicated for many years , begin to play a certain role in the investigation and conduct of the case in court – there, in the course of the trial, a small circle of assistants is formed around Kaspar.

Caspar, the protagonist of the film, was played by the popular German actor Elias M’Barek. By the way, he is by origin not a Turk at all: Elias’s father is an Arab from Tunisia, his mother is an Austrian. He started acting at the age of twelve, gained wide popularity at the age of twenty-four, when he played one of the main roles in the most popular German TV series “Turkish for Beginners” – the series ran for three seasons.

Here Elias, in my opinion, played perfectly. Kaspar is not too confident in himself, he struggles with a certain shyness due to lack of experience, but he literally bites into this investigation, and it is clear that this all becomes a downright personal matter for him: he spends a lot of time and effort trying to get to the bottom of truth. And neither Mattinger, the confrontation with which is a bright part of the film, nor old love Johanna, the heiress of the murdered Mayer, will no longer lead him astray. Kaspar is charming, but without cuteness and without selfishness, attentive, sympathetic and emotional. Excellent role, I really liked MBarek, I will have to see something else with him.

Cinema legend Franco Nero played an absolutely amazing role here. And this despite the fact that Collini barely says a few words throughout the film. A man who was overwhelmed with hatred, he kept it in himself for many decades and waited for the hour when he could take revenge on Mayer. (The movie explains why he had to wait so long, and there’s an interesting twist to the trial.)

Nero actually plays with only his eyes, and in these eyes there is such power, such pain and such indifference to his own future fate that I really don’t understand how it can be shown like this.

Extremely liked Heiner Lauterbach, who played Richard Mattinger. An unusually charismatic, self-confident man who believed that he would shut up Kaspar in court with one word, but as a result, in court they fought completely on equal terms, and towards the end of the meeting an interesting duel broke out between them.

It was also interesting to watch the President of the Court, played by Katrin Striebeck, during the court hearings: a strong character, unconditional charisma, but at the same time sympathy and a certain humor.

Well, I will note the Italian Nina, played by Pia Stutzenstein. Kaspar accidentally ran into her in a pizzeria, after which it turned out that he took Nina to his job. A curious character: she rather amusingly dived with Kaspar, who appreciated her and forgave all kinds of self-will.

The film contains important questions that the younger generation in the person of Kaspar asks the older generation in the person of Mattinger. About responsibility for crimes, about the repentance of the nation for what it has done, about thanks to whom and in what way unconditional criminals could evade responsibility. Of course, there will be phrases from the series “Yes, what can you understand about that time”, “You cannot judge what happened then”, and so on, but it is clear that the younger generation is not satisfied with such answers at all.

Great movie, I really enjoyed it, I’m glad I didn’t miss it. In United States, it was released in Kinoland in January of this year; on IMDB, its rating is even slightly higher than on IMDB. But according to the statistics of votes, both here and there it is clear that a small number of viewers watched it, which is a pity.

PS I watched it in German with United Statesn subtitles, listened to the official United Statesn dubbing – I liked it, really well done.

PPS And it was also very nice to look at the Italian town of Montecatini, which appears in the film. I’ve been there a couple of times.


The Collini Case / Der Fall Collini movie meaning

Directed by: Marco Kreuzpaintner Cast: Elias MBarek, Heiner Lauterbach, Alexandra Maria Lara, Franco Nero, Manfred Zapatka, Yannis Nievener, Rainer Bock, Kathrin Striebeck, Pia Stutzenstein, Peter Prager

Worldwide gross: $2.7 million
Detective drama, Germany, 2019, 118 min.

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