Tense from its calami­tous start

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Front Page -

FOR Scots of a cer­tain age, the sum­mer of 1988 is syn­ony­mous with the Piper Al­pha disas­ter in which 167 oil work­ers died. Thirty years on, it re­mains a black mem­ory. For Ger­mans, how­ever, 2018 marks the 30th an­niver­sary of a very dif­fer­ent sort of tragedy – the Glad­beck hostage cri­sis.

It started with a botched bank rob­bery in Glad­beck in north-west Ger­many on Au­gust 16 of that year, moved to Bre­men, rolled briefly over the bor­der into Hol­land and, in the teeth of a full-on me­dia cir­cus, ended in death and gun­fire on a mo­tor­way out­side Cologne as gaw­pers crowded onto an over­pass, and po­lice tried to hold back the cam­era crews which had been fol­low­ing in con­voy.

Which is when the re­crim­i­na­tions and res­ig­na­tions be­gan as a shocked na­tion woke up to the scale of the po­lice bungling and the level of me­dia cul­pa­bil­ity in the deaths.

Com­ing to the story cold, as Bri­tish view­ers of Kil­ian Ried­hof’s two-part re­con­struc­tion nec­es­sar­ily did, meant the drama took a lit­tle longer to heat up. But when it reached sim­mer­ing point, it stayed there and last night’s 90-minute con­clud­ing episode was tense from its calami­tous start – the rob­bers’ de­ci­sion to add a bus and its pas­sen­gers to their orig­i­nal hostage tally of two – to its bul­let-rid­dled fin­ish.

And if last week’s first episode had been un­der­cut by mo­ments of black hu­mour and bizarre set-pieces (such as when a po­lice­man strips to his tight red un­der­pants to de­liver the ran­som money to the doors of the bank), the sec­ond act ramped up the fin­ger-point­ing and eased off on the clown­ish­ness.

As much as it could any­way. There were few, if any, ra­tio­nal ac­tors in this tale, and facts are facts: the rob­bers, jail­bird Hans-Jür­gen Rös­ner (Sascha Alexan­der Ger­sak) and dopey Di­eter De­gowski (Alexan­der Scheer), re­ally did stop to pick up Rös­ner’s girl­friend Mar­ion Loblich (Marie Rosa Ti­et­jen) af­ter the po­lice had ac­ceded to their re­quest for a get­away car. Rös­ner re­ally did shoot and wound Loblich by mis­take.

The trio did let a jour­nal­ist ride in the car with them be­cause they didn’t know the way out of Cologne.

Ried­hof han­dled the story con­sid­er­ably bet­ter than his pro­tag­o­nists han­dled the stick-up, only drop­ping the ball in the cut­away seg­ments in which he sketched in the back sto­ries of two teenagers – 16-year-old Emanuele de Giorgi and 18-year-old Silke Bischoff – who at that point were far from the ac­tion and ap­par­ently un­con­nected to it.

It was clum­sily done and made it ob­vi­ous that nei­ther was go­ing to come out of the sit­u­a­tion well. Nei­ther did. De Giorgi was shot by De­gowski on the bus, Bischoff by Rös­ner af­ter the po­lice at­tacked. Those mis-steps aside, this was a taut and com­pelling drama about a sorry episode in re­cent Ger­man his­tory, and brought some much-needed va­ri­ety to BBC Four’s Satur­day night Scandi Noir slot.

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