The feature film NAHSCHUSS by director Franziska Stünkel will celebrate its television premiere on Friday, 10 March 2023 at 8:15 pm on ARTE. The political thriller with a top-class cast including Lars Eidinger, Luise Heyer and Devid Striesow deals with the death penalty in the GDR. It is based on the real story of Dr Werner Teske, who was the last person to be sentenced to death and executed in the GDR in 1981.
Image above: NAHSCHUSS, Film Still, Scene with Lars Eidinger
Even today, the topic is highly relevant in a world of increasing autocratic systems. The film premiered at the 2021 International Film Festival in Munich. Despite the adversity caused by the Corona pandemic, the drama had a successful international theatrical release and was highly praised by the press.
A brief introduction to the content: Young Franz Walter (Lars Eidinger) has just completed his doctorate at Humboldt University when he receives an attractive offer from the GDR’s Foreign Intelligence Service (HVA). Dazzled by the many advantages the new job brings, Franz accepts the offer. Together with his girlfriend Corina (Luise Heyer) he initially enjoys his new life. In his superior Dirk (Devid Striesow), Franz finds a mentor who is well-disposed towards him and who supports him in word and deed during their joint missions abroad in the FRG. At first, Franz’s missions seem to merely serve the GDR’s information needs, but these soon grow larger and more monstrous. When Franz has to suddenly resort to means he can no longer reconcile with his conscience in his work assignments, he decides to quit – but the secret service won’t let him go. Soon Franz is ready to cross all boundaries – and risk everything. Franz’s fight for survival against a merciless system begins.
Director Franziska Stünkel puts the film into context: “NAHSCHUSS is not a documentary, but a feature film centred on the figure of Franz Walter. At some points Franz borrows from the life of Werner Teske. This concerns, for example, the legal history and the execution. Other parts of the film are fictionalised. This takes place where research was simply not possible, or where it made sense in order to make Franz’s inner development tangible. … If there are no autobiographical records of a historical figure, the portrayal of the emotional world is also per se in the fictional realm. … I would attribute the formulation of Franz’s essence and this transfer of history into fiction or partial fiction, i.e. a cinematic plot, to the artistic development process.”
The film Nahschuss was awarded the rating “particularly valuable” and is recommended for pupils from the 10th grade upwards (FSK rating from 12 years) for the subjects politics, history, ethics and psychology, among others.
Franziska Stünkel: “The cruel arbitrariness with which the death penalty is carried out on Franz Walter is doubly tragic because he was not guilty of any crime beyond planning to flee the GDR and is simply to be made an example of. This is how it was in reality: out of anger because Stiller had defected to the West, Mielke directed all his fury at Werner Teske. He was sentenced to death by the Supreme Military Court in a secret trial. The judges’ verdict had already been determined. In 1998, one of the judges and a prosecutor in the Federal Republic were found guilty of judicial murder of Werner Teske, because he himself had been sentenced to death and executed completely unjustly according to standard GDR law. He was not proven to have been a spy, and he had not fled. I hope my film represents the powerlessness with which an individual can be at the mercy of the arbitrariness of a political system.”
Franziska Stünkel is not only a remarkable director, but also a renowned photographer who has been awarded the Audi Art Award and Berlin Hyp Art Prize, among others. In March 2023, two solo exhibitions of her photographic works will be on view in Berlin: COEXIST LOCAL GLOBAL at Galerie Jarmuschek + Partner and COEXIST 2010-2022 with a retrospective at CSR Contemporary Show Room.
More about the exhibitions here:
COEXIST LOCAL GLOBAL – Galerie Jarmuschek + Partner
COEXIST 2010-2022 – CSR Contemporary Show Room
TV premiere: NAHSCHUSS
Friday, 10th March 2023, 20:15 Uhr in the channel of ARTE