Autobiographical film: Anxious days: "Then we are probably the relatives"

The penetrating tone of the fax machine goes through marrow and leg.

Autobiographical film: Anxious days: "Then we are probably the relatives"

The penetrating tone of the fax machine goes through marrow and leg. Not just because it's so tall. But because he suddenly stands for fear in the house of the rich Hamburg intellectual family Reemtsma - and for the fine line between life and death. The film adaptation of the autobiographical novel "We are then probably the relatives" by Johann Scheerer starts with this noise.

It revolves around the kidnapping of his father - the millionaire cigarette heir Jan Philipp Reemtsma. For 33 days it was in the hands of the kidnappers. From the point of view of the then 13-year-old son, the dramatic moments of waiting and hoping are told quietly and forcefully.

It is a no-frills and at the same time fascinating work that director Hans-Christian Schmid has brought to the screen. One that lives above all from the two main actors Claude Heinrich ("Dark") as son Johann and Adina Vetter ("Frau Jordan equals") as mother Ann Kathrin. The two succeed in a wonderfully unobtrusive way in showing the emotional worlds that alternate between hope, fear, boredom, worry, uncertainty, being overwhelmed, stoic acceptance and actionism.

The story of the kidnapping: In March 1996, Reemtsma was kidnapped from his workhouse within walking distance of the family home in Hamburg-Blankenese. A letter and a hand grenade lie on the landing. The kidnappers are demanding 20 million euros. The family and the family lawyer (Justus von Dohnányi) involve the police. And with that, the "relatives program" rolls over the mother and the son, which is handled by the police in the event of kidnapping.

The house becomes the operations center and the caregivers move into the family home with their own sleeping gear. The lawyer and a close friend (Hans Löw) also become permanent guests and thus become part of the community of destiny. Everyone sits together at the dining table. There is small talk about previous missions. The roller rolls irreverently.

At the same time, the mood is enormously ambivalent. The family carers play table tennis with the relatives, the son goes to the fair with them and of course the search for the Easter eggs hidden in the garden by mum and the police in the evening is not missing either. Everything fluctuates between compulsive normality and extreme exceptional situations.

The mother largely lets this and the mistakes of the police happen at first, in the hope that her husband will return quickly. From a distance and almost silently, the son observes the drama of his family and the sloppy police work. At least two money transfers organized by the police fail, presumably because the kidnappers are suspicious. Finally, the mother - who has finally gotten angry - organizes her own handover of money together with a pastor and others.

The film "We are then probably the relatives" is far removed from an action plot. The kidnapping itself or Reemtsma's time in the hands of the kidnappers hardly play a role. And yet the film, which is more like a chamber play, captivates from the first to the last minute. Everything is told primarily from the son's perspective. And with this, Scheerer, with his book published in 2018, and Schmid in the film adaptation of the novel, create an urgency that reverberates.