Funeral in Berlin Film Details
Overview: A British Agent is sent to East Berlin to receive a Communist defector, but the true situation turns out to be rather more complicated.
Tagline: It was going to be a lovely funeral. Harry ‘Ipcress File’ Palmer just hoped it wouldn’t be his …
Review: During the Cold War, the real Berlin Wall provided a bizarre backdrop, and a prop that was more outlandish than any writer of fiction could ever have created. For nearly five decades, many a spy movie was set in its shadow including this laboured follow-up to “The Ipcress File”. The films based on Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer books introduced a different kind of secret agent. As portrayed by Michael Caine, Palmer is very low rent indeed. With his Cockney accent, bland expressions and dark rimmed glasses, he is anything but glamorous. Cynical about everything, especially his superiors, he is more often than not strapped for cash – no roulette or chemin de fer for Palmer. Caine eliminated almost any kind of animation from his performance and seems to have modelled his character on an accountant or perhaps a health inspector. All cold war spy films involve double-dealing and double-crossing, and are often hard to follow. However, there is so much switching around and changing sides in “Funeral in Berlin” that I doubt if even the people who made the film knew what was going on. The story involves Palmer’s attempts to help Colonel Stok (Oskar Homolka), a prominent Russian counter intelligence chief to defect to the West. Palmer poses as a lingerie salesman to infiltrate into East Berlin assisted by Johnny Vulkan (Paul Hubschmid) who runs a lingerie business as a cover for his espionage activities. The East German Police, Nazi war criminals, the KGB, the British Secret Service, and Israel’s Mossad all find a place in the plot. Eventually, it becomes evident that Johnny Vulkan is the object of much of their attention. He is revealed as an unscrupulous war criminal who was involved in the extortion of millions of dollars from the Jews during the war. Macintosh raincoats are de rigueur for all the characters in “Funeral in Berlin”, and nobody is what they seem. Finally, the impenetrable plot plays out after much crunching around in bombed-out buildings. At the film’s end, Harry Palmer stands before his controlling officer, Ross (Guy Dolman), totally disillusioned at the turn of events. He voices his displeasure at being used as a pawn throughout and stalks off in disgust. Palmer’s long-suffering and stoic attitude is the glue that holds all these overcooked elements together. He brings to the role many of the characteristics from “Alfie”, which was also made around this time. With that said, Caine’s Harry Palmer seems so relentlessly unenergetic that it comes as a surprise when he is involved in a love scene or lashes out with his fists – one just can’t picture him working out enough to stay in shape for this kind of activity. The film has authenticity; much of it filmed on location in Berlin and near The Wall. There is even a sequence shot in a Berlin transvestite bar. The film’s failings are not with its production values but rather with its plot of too many twists and credibility gaps. “Funeral” is not as effective as “The Ipcress File” and is not as flashy as “Billion Dollar Brain”, which reintroduced many of the same characters. However, all the films seem rather dated now with “Funeral in Berlin” particularly so. In the end, they seem driven merely by the whims of the filmmakers rather than by the credible motivations of real people.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English, German
Duration: 102 min
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