The critique of the hostage crisis –– thrilling and extremely powerful


Gladbeck: the hostage crisis is extremely powerful and raw. Volker Heise’s documentary exposes our appetite for flirting with the viewer’s own moral ambiguity that remains unchanged.

The Netflix documentary Gladbeck: The Hostage Crisis was released on the streaming service on June 9, 2022.

I was surprised by Netflix’s latest crime documentary, Gladbeck: The Hostage Crisis. Some of the events are jaw-dropping and unfold like a limited TV series that would have you saying out loud, “This would never happen.” Director Volker Heise (Aikamatka Schwarzwaldi in 1902) covers 54 hours of the crisis in just over 90 minutes and the amazing things that are happening. The real criminals, reports, police and hostages are away from the cameras. Then, in the eyebrow-raising hubris scene, the journalists laugh as they stand around Hans-Jürgen Rösner, one of the actual hostage takers. He had the rocks to hold an impromptu press conference in the middle of it all. While holding a gun and his finger on the trigger.

Heise’s documentary is brave enough to strictly use footage, television archives and audio recordings. It makes for a breakneck pace that plays out like a fictional thriller. You won’t find interviews or expert testimony here brimming with intrigue and moral dilemmas, making the result more powerful. Rösner and his partner, Dieter Degowski, share a dangerous mix of overconfidence, excessive ambition and arrogance. They created this mess on live television, and they are the stars. Then you have the journalists ignore the basics to become an actor in the story and to allow oneself to be involved. As the film unfolds, you and I become the continual viewers who find entertainment and wonder what’s next. If only we remembered the words and humanity of Herb Morrison as we came to the end.

Gladbeck: the hostage crisis took place in August 1988 which started in West Germany, became a traveling road show and ended abruptly in the Netherlands. Was it the downfall of the media? Some say it happened between the 1980s and 2000s. You might be right because ethics took precedence over the big story to put on sensational 80s TV. Want me to prove my point? In a scene that still makes me doubt people’s humanity, a reporter puts a recording device in front of a female hostage’s face while Rösner has a gun shoved uncomfortably into her neck. As reporters battle for space and angle to capture the perfect frozen moment in the story.

Gladbeck: the hostage crisis is a thrilling and powerful documentary about ethics, the arrogance of mythical proportions and structural incompetence. It was an important moment that renewed journalistic ethics. What Heise accomplishes here is to show that little has changed with the viewer’s appetite – for the insatiable, the macabre and like a moth to flame, flirting with our own moral ambiguity is not not just entertainment but in our reality.

What do you think of the Netflix documentary Gladbeck: The Hostage Crisis? Comments below.

You can watch this documentary with a Netflix subscription.

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