Directed by: Marcus H. Rosenmüller
Written by: Marcus H. Rosenmüller, Nicholas J. Schofield
Featuring: David Kross, Freya Mavor, John Henshaw, Harry Melling, Dave Johns, Michael Socha, Dervla Kirwan, Gary Lewis
Bert Trautmann is a German paratrooper who is a prison of war in Lancashire at the end of World War 2. A local business owner spots him taking part in a penalty competition during a visit to the camp and formulates a plan to get the talented goalkeeper to play for his struggling team, St Helens. Despite prejudice and understandable hostility from the locals and his team mates Bert proves to be a great success and it is not long before he is attracting the attention of Manchester City and the daughter of his team’s manager, Margaret. The war ends and now Bert has to choice which path he takes.
The Keeper is a good entertaining and uplifting film. It is the usual fare of film-maker wanting to entertain and a ‘true-story’. As far as I can tell the basic building blocks of the real-life story are there but last ‘fairy-tale’ moments from Bert’s life have been airbrushed out or not included. Thus it ever was before and so it will be in the future real-life stories in the cinema.
Getting past this, and some people cannot, you have to make sure you have an interesting, well written and acted story instead, the trips along and keeps you invested in the tale. The Keeper does this. German actor, hoorah a German playing a German no cod-accents here, David Kross is a handsome, charismatic presence on screen and gives Trautmann a grounded story, he’s no angel here but most importantly was not a Nazi, was there any in Germany, was it just 12 men in that whole country that were Nazis? To be balanced neither is he a goody-too-shoes but the audience is forced to sympathise with him, giving him nightmares about the appalling treatment of a Jewish child, the deaths of his comrades and so forth – it is somewhat heavy-handed at times.
Nevertheless John Henshaw comes in playing Northern Man and boy is he reliable solid and so believable at it and for once the ‘northern English folk’ are not tired stereotype ecky-thump types but ordinary people living in the north of England. The football scenes are surprisingly realistic for film football scenes, not a high bar but at least the snippets you get it does look like players are trying to stop their opponents scoring rather than falling back like the Red Sea when a player approaches them.
Freya Mavor as Margaret, Trautmann’s first wife (never revealed in the film), is given a great role, and is impressive as the free-spirited, tough, northern lass, whose heart is captured by the boyish charm of goalkeeper Trautmann.
The football recreation is a small part of this story, so don’t worry if you do not like football, the balk of the drama is taken up with the problems of Bert being a German prisoner of war staying in the country he was ‘at war’ with and taking on every prejudice, bias and hurdle placed in his way whilst falling in love and marrying an English girl along the way. As often happens in the life of people who are successful things happen to seem to take away their happiness or ‘test’ them. In real life this really happened to Trautmann and his family and it was no writer’s conceit.
The Keeper, or Trautmann in some markets, is a well-made film in every department, writing, acting, directing, filming, all round it is good. Some of the dramatic constructs are glaringly obvious and a bit ham-fisted at times and being ‘true to life’ it is not strictly ‘true’ but overall it is an entertaining and engrossing film about a really interesting character in a time when intolerance and prejudices had to be overcome – thank goodness that’s changed.