Critically ranked in the top ten of Germany's 100 most important films, Wolfgang Staudte's THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US is a haunting film about personal accountability and the process of healing in post war Nazi Germany. The first feature film produced amid the ruins of East Germany after World War II, under the auspices of the newly created DEFA Studios, THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US featured the budding star Hildegard Knef. Susanne Wallner (Hildegard Knef) is a concentration camp survivor who, despite unspeakable experiences, is filled with a desire to return to some semblance of the routine of her former life. She wants to move back into her Berlin apartment, but soon finds that Dr. Hans Mertens has taken up residence. Once a successful specialist surgeon, Hans cannot return to his medical practice after the war, incapable of tolerating the sound of anguish and human despair. She offers to share the apartment with Hans until he can find other lodging, but soon finds herself drawn to the troubled, self-destructive, and angry young man who is trying to suppress his terrible memories through excessive drinking. With Susanne's help, Dr. Mertens slowly returns to his former self. But first he must confront his former commanding officer, now a prosperous and respected businessman, over a wartime atrocity. THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US is a compassionate portrait of hope, resilience, and personal atonement. Rooted in the tradition of German expressionism, Wolfgang Staudte juxtaposes realistic filmmaking with rapid montage sequences, unusual camera angles, and sharp lighting contrasts to create a disorienting harsh reality that reflects the fractured lives of the war's survivors. What emerges is not a menacing portrait of a faceless Cold War enemy, but a poignant tale of profound humanity and a sincere, desperate cry for justice.
Ranked by critics as one of Germanys most important films, The Murderers Are Among Us
offers a wrenching look at history and humanity. The first feature film produced in Germany after World War II, it is set in Berlin just after the surrender, and the city is still being battered by air raids. The characters move through the half-destroyed husks of old buildings, and even simple acts like serving a meal at a table take on new meaning as the people try to put their lives back together. Susanne Wallner is a concentration camp survivor, eager to taste life again after her living death. Dr. Hans Mertens is a former German officer, unable to live with the guilt of what he and his former comrades have done. The two must quite literally learn to live side by side as they come to terms with the past and start to look toward the future. The film is beautifully and sensitively made, and possesses a shining optimism that is surprising for its time. --Ali Davis