This film begins and ends with a classification.
It is based on real events, but the plot, locations and characters are "fictitious".
It may be that the production wants to protect itself legally.
It also doesn't matter that the case of Niels Högel, the worst serial killer in recent German history, is seen as a judicial scandal.
Instead, it is about a "system in which profit maximization comes before patient welfare and the nursing shortage is already priced in".
It was not until June 6, 2019 that Högel, who worked in hospitals between 1999 and 2005, was sentenced to life imprisonment after many years of investigation into the proven murders of 85 people.
The court determined the particular gravity of the guilt.
Trial observers suspect that only the tip of the iceberg has come to light.
It is said that Högel could have committed at least 200 murders.
Uncertainty remains for many relatives.
A feature film about the “death nurse”, a case that not only depicts evil, but also exposes systemic weaknesses in the hospital organization and enlarges the socially discussed and fearful topic of care as if in a magnifying glass, realized by a private broadcaster – doesn’t the goat become a gardener ?
According to the motto: RTL + (the broadcaster's streaming offer) plus the case of Niels Högel plus fiction equal to a lurid thriller.
Or, with a shift in emphasis, superman heroic story, something like this: A squad of upright nurses stands up to the black sheep in their ranks, is the hopeless fight against hospital management, who understand the cover-up as a job description.
David against Goliath, right in the middle of the "Angel of Death".
Feelings of power over life and death
"The White Silence" offers none of this, even if in a meeting scene between the management of the fictitious "state hospital" and the nursing staff, both sides sit opposite each other at the long conference table like combatants, of whom only one side knows the obligations of the healthcare profession and the other in Excel sheets are alive.
The film dispenses with the heroic and demonization, taking action and portrayal back.
There are no psychological explanations for the actions of the nurse Niels Högel, who is called Rico Weber here.
Instead, you see Rico's face as he does his deeds.
See his euphoria when a patient whose recovery is already on the brink of death is brought back to life by him, the resuscitation specialist.
Kostja Ullmann, at first glance optically wrongly cast, plays it mercilessly well.
A normally insecure person, a pick-me-up type who constantly tests his effect on the environment, experiences elation of power over life and death.
If the resuscitation is successful - in the case of people who have just died, which he himself had previously injected to death - the nurse is rewarded with the recognition of the doctors and colleagues.
If the resuscitation is not successful, Ullmann's Rico collapses like a deflated balloon, becomes aggressive and runs away.
Above all, however, "The White Silence" is about structures.
In fast cuts, the film alternates between the courtroom and the events that lead to the indictment.
The perspective is personal, compassionate.
The nurse Clara, played by Julia Jentsch, is the real main character of the film.
Clara Horn is a new nurse in the cardiological intensive care unit of the "state hospital", but she worked there years ago.
Ward manager Barbara Heckel (Elena Uhlig) has to manage the shortage of nurses, is stressed and more than willing to turn a blind eye if Rico is suspected.
Nursing colleague Max (Rouven Israel) is even angry when Clara confronts him about her suspicions.
Doesn't Rico save more patients than anyone else?
And who has the time
to check every medication order in addition to all the accounting documents?
Rico complains about bullying, the hospital management praises him with an excellent reference after events in a stormy night, in which three convalescents with the best prognosis die.
In the next clinic, where Clara finally finds allies with moral courage among the nurses instead of a closed society with relationships of dependency.
Niels Högel worked in clinics for more than five years.
His shifts sometimes consumed seven times the dose of potentially deadly drugs.
After only a few cases were uncovered in a first trial, a second one in 2019 should bring clarity.
The conduct of the trial by the judge was highly unusual.
Not the perpetrators, but the victims got attention, almost like in a committee of inquiry.
Here, too, “The White Silence” changes the depiction.
The feature film judge is superficial, focusing on determining the share of guilt among hospital staff and management who don't want to remember anything.
In terms of drama, the direction of Esther Gronenborn (also book, together with Sönke Lars Neuwohner) and the factual,
often quasi-documentary camera by Christoph Krauss could hardly make the facets of "Fall Högel" more appropriate.
Her renunciation of the sensational in favor of enlightenment is clear down to the last detail.
The last look falls on white crosses, each representing a victim.
The fact that Kostja Ullmann plays the murderer proves to be a casting coup.
His "death nurse" is an attractive guy, the psychopath next door, whose perpetrators one "can't imagine" as a matter of habit.
"The White Silence" avoids explanation mode such as sensationalism.
It's about individual guilt and structural responsibility, close to the audience, fictionally exaggerated, without simplifications.
The focus is on the people who, in mortal danger in intensive care units, should actually be sure of receiving the best possible care.
The white silence
The white silence
is available on RTL+.