The depressing drama by Grimme award winners Holger Karsten Schmidt and Kai Wessel tells of the consequences of the air conference accident in the summer of 1988 for those affected.
Frankfurt am Main – It is in the nature of the accident that it usually happens out of the blue. In this case, that’s literally true: on a beautiful summer’s day in August 1988, an air show at Ramstein Air Base in the Palatinate turned into one of the greatest tragedies to have happened in Germany since the Second World War. The highlight of a performance by the Italian aerobatic team was to be a heart painted on the sky with streaks of smoke being pierced by a fighter plane. Three machines collided with each other. Within seconds, a flaming inferno developed. It is a miracle that many more of the estimated 300,000 people were not affected. According to official figures, there were seventy dead and over a thousand injured.
The cinematic potential was always obvious, but the implementation would be a tightrope walk, at least if you don’t want to do without spectacular pictures: How can you tell about the accident without making the staging seem speculative? Holger Karsten Schmidt (script) and Kai Wessel (director) have found a way that is absolutely exemplary, even if “Ramstein – The Pierced Heart” certainly has scenes to offer that could also come from a disaster film.
“Ramstein – The pierced heart” (ARD): Moving moments
An employee of the Federal Aviation Authority (Trystan Pütter) is responsible for conveying the facts, and together with a colleague (Elisa Schlott), he is investigating the circumstances and background of the catastrophe. The emergency doctor Kruse (Jan Krauter) was also one of the interviewees. The film owes some of its most moving moments to his descriptions, because given the unmanageable number of seriously injured people, the doctor had to decide within seconds who was no longer worth receiving medical care for. Another level shows the meeting of a self-help group made up of survivors and others affected, including relatives and caregivers.
As with almost all fatalities of this kind, the supposed stroke of fate turned out to be the result of human error, which was then supposed to be covered up. The safety distance of the audience to the performances in the air was only half as large as required. In addition, Kruse criticized that there was no rescue concept, so that the chaos was shifted to the clinics – the disaster within the disaster. The three-time Grimme Prize winner Schmidt wrote his first screenplay in 1988, but one institution after the other declined, including the SWR, which was to a certain extent responsible, after all Ramstein is in the transmission area; the broadcaster has already shown with “Flug in die Nacht – Das Überlingen misfortune” (2009 on ARD) how such a tragedy can be told with the necessary restraint.
“Ramstein – The pierced heart” (ARD): Horrible pictures
It is all the more respectable that the SWR funded the project after all, although the costs were probably well above average simply because of the complex computer images. In addition to the budget, the fear of the visual horror must have fed the broadcasters’ scruples. Of course, the images are indeed grisly, but the camera (Holly Fink) never gloats over people’s unhappiness.
“Ramstein – The Pierced Heart”
Wednesday, October 26, ARD, 8:15 p.m., media library
That was of particular concern to everyone involved: the victims’ point of view is at the center of the various cleverly interwoven storylines. Only the investigator duo was invented, all others are based on authentic models, none of the fates have been told without consent; the real emergency doctor was even involved as a consultant. The meeting of a self-help group years later documents how deep the emotional wounds are, which, unlike the physical injuries, will never heal. A nurse’s account reveals that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect people who were not at the scene of the accident and, like the event itself, it occurs without warning. PTSD has long been primarily associated with experiences of war.
The images of the crash site could indeed have come from a war film, but shots like those of a father waiting in vain for his son in the empty parking lot create empathy. A background story, the background of which remains open for a long time, could have ensured a halfway conciliatory ending, but that would not have been appropriate, so Schmidt makes a bitter final point. A documentary will then follow up on many of the questions that have remained unanswered to this day. (Tilman P. Gangloff)