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"The white silence" on RTL +: The murderer is only a marginal figure


A film about Niels Högel, who murdered as a "death nurse" in hospitals, is surprisingly complex: instead of demonizing the murderer, "The White Silence" raises the question of why so many looked the other way for so long.

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Actor Ullmann as a nurse Weber: narcissistic megalomania

Photo: RTL

It's a relief when shortly before the end of "The White Silence" this sentence finally comes out, clearly and without the precautionary subjunctive: "He injects our patients to death," says the nurse, checking her two colleagues with tentative glances to make sure they're not willing to share this outrageous suspicion about the new nurse in their intensive care unit.

This sentence is a relief because it has been in the air for so long, because it has long been obvious what is now going on in the second hospital.

And because when you're watching, it's hard to bear the effort most of those involved go to in order to be able to overlook this obviousness.

The addiction to being able to play the decisive cog between life and death

Up to this sentence, a nurse Clara Horn (Julia Jentsch) draws a nurse into her growing suspicion about her colleague Rico Weber (Kostja Ullmann) in this feature film production for the streaming portal RTL +: In the hospital he is considered a technically adept resuscitation artist, but on the other hand it gives up her station during his service hours also a noticeable number of deaths.

The suspicion that he deliberately injects people on the best path to recovery into life-threatening situations in need of rescue in order to degrade them to tragic props for his heroic fantasies becomes ever more palpable.

As absurd as it may seem at first that nobody is stopping Rico Weber, it becomes sadly plausible as the film progresses.

In a montage of unadorned court scenes and exciting flashbacks, director Esther Gronenborn tells her fictionalized interpretation of the true case of Niels Högel, who murdered at least 85 patients in various German clinics as a »death nurse« between 1999 and 2005.

As recently as 2019, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for it, with it being believed that he could have committed more than twice that number of murders.

In the real case, as in the semi-fictional adaptation, his motivation is narcissistic megalomania: the addiction to the extreme situation, to being able to play the decisive cog between life and death, and the greed for fame, when the whole thing has turned out well again, he is a human being successfully massaged back into life.

These motives become clear relatively quickly, Kostja Ullmann plays the nurse without frills and breaks, very physical and to the point.

However, the main focus of »The White Silence« is not on the perpetrator, which is as surprising as it is beneficial.

There is no psychologizing here, no attempts at explanations that can quickly slip in the direction of justification, and no lurid exaggeration.

The great achievement of "The White Silence" lies instead - in addition to the very good acting performances, also by Julia Jentsch - in the careful look at the different degrees of guilt, because the film is not satisfied with the simplest solution, the simple demonization of the egomaniacal murderer

In fact, in the moral assessment of the case, he almost seems like a marginal figure: Weber commits the murders, but doesn't he have silent accomplices in colleagues, senior physicians and the clinic management, who see his actions but consciously ignore them?

In the ward manager Barbara Heckel (Elena Uhlig), who doesn't want any additional trouble despite all the stress, and in the nurse Max (Rouven Israel), who still seems to uphold a strange, collegial code of solidarity despite the growing suspicion?

And what is to blame, more abstractly and structurally, for a healthcare system that places optimized processes and savings targets above patient welfare?

»The White Silence« also looks at those who dodge and procrastinate with a cool, matter-of-fact, almost documentary-like look.

As the only small showmanship, the film allows itself a constructed personal involvement of Clara Horn, which of course is supposed to explain why she is the only one who continues to pursue her suspicions about Weber after he has changed hospitals.

However, this detour does not detract from the positive overall impression of this film, which is likely to surprise viewers in particular who have previously seen RTL+ primarily as a streaming archive for formats and productions that are much more typical of RTL.

»The White Silence«, from June 28 on RTL+

Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2022-06-28

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