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While the serial-killer sob story subgenre rarely yields a nuanced product, Kai S. Pieck’s debut feature finds a plaintive, compelling route to the pathology of 1960s German child-killer Jürgen Bartsch. Framed as a candid confession from an incarcerated, 26-year-old Bartsch (Tobias Schenke) to a video camera, this episodic psychodrama initially seems to blame the usual suspects—frigid parents, sexual confusion, a sadistic Catholic school, unrequited love—for the monstrous severity of his crimes. However, the milquetoast Bartsch emerges as a complex, repentant individual—a brutal murderer who rails against child abuse—yearning for adolescent affection to alleviate a painful nostalgia for his own repressed boyhood, and perpetrating violent crimes to justify the “lesser” crimes of others.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 28, 2004

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