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The Captain
3rd German Film Week

The Captain
© Alfama Films
The Captain | Der Hauptmann

"Sure to stir controversy in Germany, this looks like a good bet for considerable international play." – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter  

While escaping from the patrols through the bleak Ems estuary, 19-year-old private Willi Herold discovers the abandoned uniform of a highly decorated Luftwaffe captain. Now masquerading as "Captain Herold", Willi gathers soldiers around him to complete an imaginary assignment allegedly given by Hitler himself – and reveals an unexpectedly dark side to his character...

Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH


Set a couple of weeks before the end of the war, The Captain tells the story of Willi Herold, a private soldier who, after finding an abandoned car that contains a Luftwaffe captain’s uniform too big for his size, dons it and assumes the role of a Nazi officer. He finds his way into a camp of actual high-ranking German officials and, with the confidence and cunning obtained from his new identity, facilitates the execution of more than a hundred prisoners. Herold, a deserter who is shown chased by fellow soldiers in the beginning of the film, fakes it until he makes it, blatantly using the name of Hitler to proceed with his madness. This story seems too cinematic to be true, but is in fact based on a real-life account of a man known as the “Executioner of Emsland” who escaped persecution from the Germans (he was found out but released by mistake) but was eventually arrested and sent to the guillotine by the British a year after the war.

As far as filmic treatment is concerned, The Captain is directed with such force and vigour by Robert Schwentke, who is known more for his work in Hollywood such as The Divergent Series, RED, and The Time Traveler’s Wife. The production values of The Captain never at all feel compromised — one can appreciate the scale and skill involved in recreating the time and atmosphere of the 1940s, which sometimes border on the abstract and experimental — and the decision to shoot it in stark black and white adds to the grimness and absurdity of its mad lead character and the mad times he is in. Max Hubacher, who plays the captain, is phenomenal as a young impostor driven by his desire to live and his lust for power, which contributes to the major gripe one could have while watching the film: Schwentke characterises him heroically (full of emphatic close-ups and flattering angles, emphasising the triumph of his will) and therefore invites sympathy from the audience, who in turn is made to feel complicit in his evil deeds. A far cry from many Holocaust films propelled by humanist virtues, The Captain poses difficult questions and allows the viewers to confront them. Although it is downright problematic, its boldness is something to admire.

- Richard Bolisay

Richard Bolisay Richard Bolisay is a writer and film critic based in Manila. His essays on cinema have appeared in various publications online and in print. He is a participant of the Berlinale Talent Press and Locarno Critics Academy, and has been part of the jury of, among others, the Hong Kong International Film Festival. 
Follow him on Twitter @richardbolisay

Film details

Germany, France, Poland, 2018
German title: Der Hauptmann
Director: Robert Schwentke
Genre: Drama, History, War
English subtitles
Duration: 119 mins
Rating: R16

Awards and Nominations

San Sebastian Film Festival 2017, Best Cinematography Award
German Film Awards 2018, Best Sound
Bari International Film Festival 2018, Best Director, Best Actor

Screening schedules

SM Aura Premier: 
Nov 7 - 9:30pm

SM City North EDSA: 
Nov 11 - 9:30pm

St. Louis University - Baguio
Nov 21 - 5:00pm

University of San Carlos - Cebu City

Liceo de Cagayan University - Cagayan de Oro
Dec 7 - 9:30am