Comedy about the Relotius scandal in the cinema: He delivers what they want to print

The Relotius scandal of the “Spiegel” becomes a film. In “A Thousand Lines” Michael Bully Herbig tries his hand at a media satire about “poetic” reporters.

Lars Bogenius (Jonas Nay) with his superiors in the editorial office

Man of Stories: Lars Bogenius (Jonas Nay) in “A Thousand Lines” Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

The loss of trust in the media has been discussed in the republic’s editorial offices not only since Donald Trump’s fake news allegations or the lateral thinker demonstrations during the corona pandemic. It came at the worst possible time Relotius affair, which became public at the end of 2018 and often caused hardly concealed glee. The forgery scandal about interviews that were never conducted and partly fictitious reports primarily hit the Mirror, the self-proclaimed “assault gun of democracy”.

How could such a scandal happen in this editorial office, which prided itself so much on its fact-checking department?

The in-house troubleshooting was initially lazy, later critical, but almost inevitably incomplete. One of the main participants in the case, the mirror-Journalist Juan Morenowho was the first to arouse suspicion, soon wrote the enlightening book “A Thousand Lines of Lies”, which was critical, but not too much, after all Moreno wanted to continue with the mirror work and still does to this day.

This book is now the template for another attempt by Michael – the eternal bully – Herbig to establish himself as a serious director, at least a little. “A lot of things happened, but we made up most of them. Honestly!” It says at the beginning, so one could assume that an appropriately biting satire follows, but there is hardly any trace of satirical elements in the following.

Instead, “A Thousand Lines” proves to be a very dry documentary drama over long stretches that largely gives away the narrative possibilities and, above all, the abysses of the case.

Cheating always takes two

Elyas M’Barek plays the leading role, his character’s name isn’t Moreno but Romero, while Claas Relotius became Lars Bogenius (Jonas Nay), both of whom don’t work for him mirrorbut for them Timeline. Apart from these small changes, the plot meticulously follows reality: while working on a report about the conditions on the Mexican-American border, Romero discovers discrepancies in the texts of the star journalist Bogenius.

However, its editors don’t want to hear anything about the allegations, they stand in front of the star who gives them what they want. This is exactly where it could have gotten interesting, because successful forgery, successful deception, always requires two: one who deceives, one who wants to be deceived.

It’s always like that, whether it’s with the alleged millionaire heiress Anna Sorokin, the allegedly newly discovered Leonardo painting, the love scammers in online dating or the spectacular reports of a talented writer who writes exactly what an editorship wants to present to its readers.

Write down what should be

The accusation, which is often not written down, what is (to a mirror– motto to use), but what should be, is being done to journalism more and more often, often wrongly, but again and again and not only in the case of Relotius, rightly so. But indicting these structures would require a bolder approach than Michael Herbig and his screenwriter Hermann Florin dare.

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