“Witches are burning,” a Halloween police call that could do some things but want too much
A coincidental but striking agglomeration has emerged this fall: the ARD Sunday evening thriller seems to seek salvation in the mystical, horror spectacle, murmuring otherworldly – as if reality had already been grazed. There was the gate to hell in Vienna, the devilish trip in Frankfurt, now the police call “Witches are burning” whispers with Claudia Michelsen about black magic, instruments of torture, defensive spells against evil, whispers about a place that is doomed, one The stoic Felix Vörtler has “strange energy”, as even Kriminalrat Lemp finds.
Chief Inspector Brasch cannot walk through this nameless village below the Brocken without hearing whispers and whispers, without seeing witch symbols and defense symbols on the house walls. A crow is dead and flies away. A dog is dead and gets up again. But the woman who was tortured, killed and burned will not rise again. “This tops everything,” says the pathologist.
But a thriller already has its first problem when it thinks it has to muster the “this-beats-everything” thrill. And another when he can’t decide what tone to play.
There are the two lovely red-haired girls who magically appear and disappear, whispering to Brasch, “We’ll help you”. Little witches, of course. There is the “Frauenheilkreis”, which meets in the forest and on rocks, invokes the goddess and the mother and marches through the village with torches and in strange robes. The men speak of the “humbug club”, one is tempted to agree with this judgement. No witches, of course.
Wolfgang Stauch, script, and Ute Wieland, director, like their Tatort predecessors, can’t really decide whether “Hexen brennen” should be fish or meat or ratatouille. The trees are dying, the snow stays away, the avian influenza is coming: a place where everyone knows everyone else loses confidence, loses its balance. But after a hasty enumeration, the bald rock and the climate catastrophe are no longer an issue.
The strong moments of this police call – and it has quite a few – show that it could have done just fine without the witch-hocus-pocus, the curiosities of the “Frauenheilkreis”, without the grisly details of torture.
Strong moments: The victim’s mother, a pub owner named Edler, stubs out cigarettes on her arm – she wants to know, she tells the commissioner, how her daughter was when she burned. The man whose wife packs her things and leaves does not hit her after all, but becomes a heap of misery. Brasch has a different kind of conversation with the village doctor. Brasch conducts patient conversations, and she brings a suspect a pizza. And the hopeless family history of the Edlers could have been told in more detail: the story of the successful daughter who returns to the village after ten years, the somewhat stupid son who ends up on the sidelines because of this return, the tough but also violently mourning Mother.
Brasch’s boss Lemp suddenly appears, drinks with the men from the regulars’ table, says “Now let’s get down to business” – it remains meaningless. Brasch takes the witch apparitions and animal resurrections with a skeptical crease between his brows and a shrug. It’s best to join her.
“Police call 110: witches are burning”, ARD, Sun., 8.15 p.m.