The Keeper (2018)
It is no coincidence that the German-UK bio-pic The Keeper (2018) has been released into a context of Brexit turbulence. While it is a story about a hero of ‘the beautiful game’, it is also about tolerance and forgiveness that is so absent in today’s politics.
Only avid soccer history fans would know the name Bert Trautmann but this film will revive his fame. He was the goalie (played by David Kross) credited with Manchester’s triumph at the 1956 FA Cup Final, keeping Birmingham at bay after literally breaking his neck with 17 minutes left of play.
The film begins with Trautmann as a young Nazi paratrooper, a celebrated soldier who won an Iron Cross for bravery. When the Allied Forces crushed the German war machine, Trautmann was interred in a British prisoner camp and passed the time by playing soccer. His talents were noticed by a local amateur club who needed a goalie; Trautmann was soon drawing big crowds and raising the club’s profile. But he also re-ignited war hatreds, and many were furious that a former Nazi was allowed to play for a British team.
An inevitable romance broadens the narrative beyond sport. The local club manager’s daughter, Margaret (Freya Mavor), takes an immediate shine to the handsome German, overcoming her initial contempt for his Nazi past. As the relationship develops, so too does Trautmann’s fame as a goalie and he soon joins the top-league Manchester club. Incited by the press and local Jewish population, mass protests were held, but it was a Rabbi whose published letter pleaded for the goalie not to be judged for the sins of his homeland.
As a piece of soccer history, the story is told well, aided by excellent acting and cinematography. The sets, costume and mood of the times are artfully constructed, although the pace and the weaving of sub-plotlines into the main frame loses balance at times. If the storytelling can be faulted at all it is the tendency to gloss over dark corners and shine fairy lights onto the heart-warming side of the tale.
In ‘true British spirit’, soccer fans came to love Trautmann for his athletic achievements despite being a former Nazi, and he won several honours, including the prestigious British Player of the Year in 1964. Some viewers will see it as ironic that current Brexit politics is in part motivated to keep foreigners off British soil.
Director: Marcus H. Rosenmuller
Stars: David Kross, Freya Mavor, John Henshaw