For his second feature film, the German Franziska Stünkel chooses to narrate one of the darkest episodes of the defunct German Democratic Republic, the GDR or East Germany, which was the last execution that took place in the former socialist state, happened in 1981. The director chooses to create a story freely inspired by the event in ‘The honest spy’, which turns Lars Eidinger into an aspiring professor who ends up involved in a spiral of intrigue and espionage.
Taking inspiration from the life of Werner Teske, Stünkel narrates how the researcher Franz Walter is forced to enter the Stasi to gain access to the post of professor that he longs for. The filmmaker knows how to create that atmosphere of oppression that could be seen in other titles set in the GDR such as ‘The Silent Revolution’ or ‘Wind of Freedom’. It is striking how the director and screenwriter turns what seems like an office job into a true descent into hell for her protagonist.
German cinema has always been characterized by looking at its contemporary history, with the episode of the Cold War and, especially, the role of the former GDR being one of the most visited in the recent industry. In the case of ‘The Honest Spy’, it is fascinating as well as horrifying to see to what extent the Stasi – considered one of the most effective intelligence services in the world – monitored, manipulated and extorted even its own members, showing one of the most characteristic aspects of the former satellite republics of the USSR.
Lars Eidinger delivers a spectacular performance
And in this historical thriller, the one who stands out especially is Lars Eidinger, who has already demonstrated in his filmography his ability for extreme roles, as was well seen in ‘Personal Shopper’ and ‘High Life’. The actor from ‘The Persian Professor’ perfectly conveys the feeling of anguish and constant vigilance that ends up leading to a flight forward with dire consequences. Eidinger once again proves to be one of the most versatile performers in today’s German industry, being much more prolific even than the international Daniel Brühl and in the vein of Tom Schilling.
With a gloomy photograph, the work of Nikolai von Graevenitz, which fully immerses the public in the 80s of the GDR, ‘The Honest Spy’ manages to be a correct historical thriller especially for the performance of its leading actor, as well as for an effective portrait of the oppression that the society of the former East Germany lived through. A new feature film that knows how to bring to the fore the most unknown episodes in contemporary history.
The best: The interpretation of Lars Eidinger, his physical and mental delivery.
Worst: With references such as ‘The lives of others’ or ‘Barbara’, a greater plot ambition is missing, his script gave for more.