Sunday, 14. April 2024

Previous slide
Next slide

Under Pressure (Die Getriebenen), German Television/ARD 2020

A man sits in the back seat of his company car, talking to his advisor (spin doctor):

“… Are you saying that you want to replace not only Seehofer in the near future?”
“One thing at a time.”
“But Merkel will cost more”.
“I will pressure Horst until the last person in the CSU knows that he is due to fall. And not because the childcare allowance project is about to be dumped or Dobrindt is driving his toll project against the wall. … Because of Merkel. Merkel is screwing up on the refugee problem, and has been for years. She and her interior minister can’t get anything done. And good old Horst just watches instead of putting her under pressure. No, the people at the party basis are boiling, my friend, and that’s why they’re crying out for someone who will finally take off the kid gloves. …

You almost have to be grateful to the refugees. They’ll speed things up. …”

The man is supposed to be Markus Söder, then Bavarian State Minister of Finance and Home Affairs, as can be seen from an insert in the scene before. Intriguing, career-minded; not at all how voters wish the „leader of their state“ to be.

But is the man really like that? Is that really how the scene played out? We don’t know, because we viewers weren’t there, of course.

In the film’s opening credits it says: “The play scenes can only be an approximation of what really happened.”

But is this reference really enough to make it sufficiently clear to the average TV viewer that the film does have a real background, namely the refugee crisis in 2015, but that it is in no way proven (or claimed) that the conversation actually took place in this way? I have my doubts about that.

If a film has a quasi-documentary character, i.e. it takes up a real event, names real people, and if the actors are also selected or made to look at least very similar to the real people – then I think some viewers will say to themselves: Oh, that’s how it was back then, that’s interesting.

What does that mean legally? I doubt that it is sufficient if only in the opening credits it is shown for a few seconds that the scenes are only an “approximation of the real events”. My view is: Either the scenes depicted must truly correspond to reality, at least in their core. Or it must be made clear by more frequent and more striking insertions or in some other way that this is a fictitious scene that did not happen in reality. The two-second insertion in the opening credits has long since been “forgotten” after 10 minutes of film.

Artistic freedom and personal rights/individual rights/the right to privacy (Persönlichkeitsrechte) must be weighed against each other and brought to an appropriate balance.

Of course, the film is interesting, funny, informative, entertaining. No question about it. But much of it is based on the fact that the film constantly plays with the suggestion that the events actually took place in this way. Without the allusions to specific people and specific events, the whole thing would be just a fictional story. The special attraction of the presentation lies in the suggestion that one is looking through the keyhole or behind the curtain, so to speak, in order to experience something that usually remains hidden from the average citizen.

This look behind the scenes is recognizably at the expense of real people. Whether you like them or not should not matter. Even if you’re not a Söder fan, I think you have to acknowledge that there is a very strong infringement of personal rights here.

The accusation of abusing a humanitarian crisis for one’s own egoistic political goals weighs heavily. I believe that such a scene, even if the event depicted was 5 years ago, can affect a person’s reputation (and ambitions) much more than critical interview questions from a “slightly hysterical” moderator in a current political talk show. Above all, because the person concerned cannot defend himself against the cinematic portrayal at the moment of broadcast.

Dr. Wolfgang Gottwald
Rechtsanwalt/Attorney at Law

Attorney at Law

Leopoldstraße 51
80802 München

Tel.: 089/383 293-10
Fax: 089/383 293-13