Hot Docs 2011: No Entry No Exit

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No Entry No Exit

Directed by Marelle Klein and Julie Kreuzer

2011, Germany, 82 mins.

This is the trouble with fairness: nobody can agree exactly on what is fair. This is the disagreement at the crux of No Entry No Exit. German authorities release convicted rapist Karl D into the custody of his brother, Helmut, because they believe the seventeen years he spent behind bars is fair. Helmut’s neighbours begin a protest, because they believe that this is unfair. This is the point where things spill out of control – and where the audience has trouble deciding where they stand.

Moral Ambivalence

Directors Marelle Klein and Julie Kreuzer were given enormous access to Helmut’s family and to Karl D himself – who insists that he is innocent, though this innocence is always a question. However, the filmmakers make a point of capturing as many parts of the story as possible, spending quite a bit of time with various groups of protesters as well. They essentially document the drama as it unfolds – over months.

However, this is is not a documentary where the filmmakers present us with answers. Rather, they let their subjects drive the drama, and we are immediately taken to a very nebulous place. Any preconceived notions the audience has about the case, about the protesters, about Karl D, and about Helmut, are quickly challenged. Helmut becomes a target: protesters call child services on him, his property is vandalised, and he is assaulted by protesters and police. The protesters splinter with each new development, questioning themselves, their cause, and Karl D. Like every story about vigilantism, the place we find ourselves is grey.

Almost Sartre

A particular strength of No Entry No Exit lay in its filmmaker’s ability to capture interesting moments. These range from something as explosive as the regular protesters arguing with a mob of fascists to something as unassuming as Karl D playing a bit to rough with Helmut’s dog. That said, sometimes the wait for these moments can be a bit much. Ten or fifteen minutes can easily be shaved from the film’s runtime.

The film’s original German title of this film is Auf Teufel komm raus, and it is a shame that it loses something in the translation: until the devil comes out. The connotation is something along the lines of being pushed until the worst comes out of a person – and that is what happens in this film.

This is not an attempt to exonerate Karl D in the slightest. The film engages quite readily with his crimes – he was convicted of rape twice, and the second time the charge involved torture – but Karl D is not really the film’s focus. Rather, No Entry No Exit deals with our reaction to sex offenders, and how we behave when we see something as unfair.

–       Dave Robson

Hot Docs runs from April 28th through May 8th.

Visit the official website for the festival.

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