Killers on Amrum, but No Smoking

Amrum is a North Sea island on the West coast of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s northernmost federal state. Bremedia, a company from this town, produced a movie which was released on January 11. That is to say, it was broadcast by one of Germany’s two nationwide public television channels at 20:15 last night. A friend told me that it was a must-see.

So we watched it. It was a nice movie, no waste of time, and I believe it could have become a great movie. Why wasn’t it exactly great after all?

Container ship heading for Hamburg, Germany, September 2009

Container ship heading for Hamburg, Germany, September 2009

For one, it probably wasn’t really meant to be great. Just a nice bit of more or less thrilling evening entertainment. I rarely watch television, and maybe what I’ve watched on Monday night was the standard kind of movie on television here.

The story: two policemen are stationed on Amrum – an elder, and one who is several decades his junior. Life is easy, just that the junior can’t find a wife, because no young woman seems to be interested in the peaceful life on the island. All of a sudden, a wounded lady who turns out to be one of two bodyguard for a threatened witness who lives in hiding on Amrum, bursts into the police station and seeks help from the two officers. I missed some bits of the plot, but somehow, the second one of the bodyguards hiding the witness on the island has been killed already, and the second one, seeking help from the local police, was wounded in the incidence, and then she apparently succumbs, too.

So the two provincial policemen find themselves alone on duty with the witness, a young lady from Moldova who is scheduled to be deported from Germany for living here illegally. But before she is taken to the plane, she needs to testify against a well-connected Russian mafiosi, or something of that kind. That mafiosi, from detention while awaiting trial, raises hell to get her killed – all her bodyguards, next to her, and the agents somewhat more at large on Amrum and on the Schleswig-Holstein mainland, have also been killed, and there’s a mole at the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, which is why the two slightly dorky flatfoots can’t call the Federal Office for help.

Eventually, they still do so, very much against the advice of the Moldovian lady. They have little choice, after finding one of the murdered (more remote) federal agents dead on the beach. So the Federal Office sends another agent, who is murdered on the ferry, and dumped into the tideland. His killer then becomes the manipulator on the island and organizes the hunt for the Moldovian witness there.

There seem to be some logical flaws in the plot. For one, the junior officer doesn’t open fire as his boss is killed by the manipulator. In real life, that would have led to an investigation – but not in the movie. Then, as the junior, as the only surviving law enforcer on Amrum, makes a phonecall to the Schleswig-Holstein mainland for help, he can’t get any, because there is a whole gale on the mainland, and no ferries or helicopters can leave for the island. Nor can the coastguard. But on Amrum, there is no storm at all, and the island is less than fifty kilometers off the coast – not to be confused with Heligoland which is a truly open-sea island.

Once the storm has abated, the next scheduled ferry from the mainland comes in, but rather than help for the junior policeman, reinforcements for the manipulator arrive with it. In the end, it takes help from all the policeman’s brave friends on the island (from all those who dare to stick their necks out) to finish the gangsters off and to save the witness from Moldova.

The movie is a nice commercial for tourism here in the North. It paints a likeable, but not excessively flattering picture of us people behind the dykes and dunes.

OK, and there is still another inconsistency with real life, as I see it. Most of the protagonists in the movie drink alcohol, sometimes quite heavily. But even though I watched 94 per cent of the movie closely, I didn’t see a single cigarette there*), even though they are all the kind of people who do smoke in real life, and real life in Germany provides lots of opportunities to smoke publicly. Maybe smoking movie characters wouldn’t have made it past the tv station’s broadcasting council – the supervisors from our political parties, religious communities, labor unions etc who constitute such a council.

The influence a political class exerts on a country’s media may need to be subtle in a democratic country, but it is here. Real life probably gets distorted whereever a television camera shows up.

As for the missing cigarettes in classical situations during the movie, I’m wondering how many of the television audience even noticed their absence.

____________

Title: Mörder auf Amrum, Germany, 2009 / 2010

*) We were absent from the living room for some five minutes of smoking outside – our hosts were faithful non-smokers.

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