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ZURICH 2018

Review: Trautmann

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- German director Marcus H Rosenmüller shows the trials and tribulations of legendary Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann in his new drama

Review: Trautmann
David Kross and Harry Melling in Trautmann

In the history of the oldest cup competition in world football, the story of goalkeeper Bert Trautmann is legendary. In the days before substitutes were allowed to come on the pitch (which remains oddly unexplained for the uninitiated in this movie), Manchester City goalkeeper Trautmann broke his neck during the 1956 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium but continued to play on until the final whistle blew. On such actions whole movies are made, and Trautmann [+see also:
trailer
interview: Marcus H Rosenmüller
film profile
]
is making its debut as a Gala Premiere at the Zurich Film Festival

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What director Marcus H Rosenmüller’s (Grave Decisions [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) drama shows us is that playing in that final with a broken neck is far from the most heroic detail of Trautmann’s (played by David Kross) extraordinary life. He was a Nazi prisoner of war, who would suffer years of racist abuse after becoming the first German footballer to play in the British football leagues after World War II. He had to convince teammates, supporters and Manchester’s Jewish community of his right to play football, and that his activities as a soldier should not constitute the sole or defining verdict on him as a person. Yet these details are sped through so that Rosenmüller can make a life-affirming, romantic tale, and not a football story. 

The helmer avoids football scenes when possible, as it’s almost impossible for actors to recreate the tension and skill of the beautiful game. In one well-honed montage sequence that races through Trautmann’s football career, archive footage is studiously meshed with re-enactments. During the final, there is also good use of a cutaway to a hospital to explain the broken neck, and these cutaways are supported by magical-realist elements and time jumps throughout the movie. Less successful are the completely fabricated sequences showing Trautmann being taken from his POW camp to play for St Helens and subsequently falling in love with Margaret (Freya Mavor), the daughter of his football-mad coach, Jack (a fun John Henshaw). The love story is laden with unnecessary amounts of treacle in what is depicted as an over-romanticised marriage throughout the film, even after a tragic bereavement befalls the couple. There is no mention of the subsequent break-up of the marriage in the end titles that detail when the characters died.

This omission of sadness is a consequence of the story being pitched broadly and the film being made with as light a tone as possible, one reminiscent of that found in the football scene in Ken Loach’s Kes. It’s a movie that is aimed at being family entertainment and wants to appeal to non-football fans. It’s successful as light entertainment, especially as the story and events that make up the goalkeeper’s biography are so extraordinary that it makes a huge impact in spite of the sugary tone. Another major part of the movie are the flashbacks to a wartime incident that today may well have been considered post-traumatic stress disorder, and which haunted Trautmann throughout his life. Overall, it’s enjoyable stuff because watching Trautmann is like watching a lower-league football game: the entertainment level is high because there is plenty of goalmouth action, but the overall quality of play is not so top-notch. 

Trautmann is a German-British co-production staged by LieblingsfilmZephyr Films, Trautmann Ltd and British Film Company in co-production with Square One EntertainmentARRI Media and ARD/Degeto. The international sales are being overseen by Beta Cinema.

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