The German King Critical Review

the german king

They will try to erase your identity. Rewrite our history.

The strength of our spirit shall never be broken. – Rudolf Manga Bell

A powerful statement with a strong sense of history, duty, and family echoes in The German King. Directed by triple threat–actor, writer, and director–Adetokumboh “Ade” M’Cormack, The German King tells the true story of the German raised African King Rudolf Douala Manga Bell and his rebellion against Kaiser Wilhelm II’s oppression during the colonial era at the start of World War I. M’Cormack’s vision sets the precedence of authenticity and gathering historical pieces by aligning the sentiments of how the state of war can change the perspectives of family and one’s duties.

M’Cormack’s illustrious storytelling builds from a place of relationships where the focal point is how war can disrupt a family, which of course should not be surprising as nations are destroyed. Starting with King Rudolf’s rule and a decision he made, with far reaching consequences, M’Cormack focuses on how the fall out of two men’s relationship from their youth are reflected in their own children. Echoing sentiments similar to Mandela and de Klerk, the film does not waste time in grandstanding.  

Opening with Rudolf’s decision to relieve the Cameroonian’s of German colonization, the film focuses on the impact this choice and its cost. Family ties between Wilhelm and Rudolf are already strained as their relationship fluxes with Rudolf’s “brother,” Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German Emperor, and the rising impact of World War I. Wilhelm raises Rudolf’s son, Alexandre, forcing Wilhelm to be duty bound into making the only decision he can aside from his wife’s pleas: kill the king. With this action set, King Rudolf resolves to save his family and, at the cost of being killed for his betrayal, wishes for his only son and the queen, his wife, to be left alone. A letter from Rudolf is delivered to Alexandre with his father wishing for him to carry on the legacy for their people and never forget where he came from. 

Cinematographer Justin Janowitz and editor Hanna Sturwold take great care and patience between the performances built into each shot and accompanied by the film’s composition by Theodore Ramirez. Thanks to the production design of Stephonika W. Kay and the executive production from the likes of Pauley Perrette, The German King stands as a testament of how in-depth historical drama can be gripping.

“Be the voice that lifts our nation” – Rudolf Manga Bell

There are outstanding performances from M’Cormack (playing Rudolf) and Raphael Corkhill (playing Kaiser Wilhelm II). Supporting cast members Constance Ejuma and Scottie Thompson provide the voice of logic and reason for their leads to shine through, with gripping emotion weighed into each of their scenes.

Currently considered for a 2020 Oscar Nomination, The German King does an excellent job in bringing to life the riveting story of King Rudolf and his legacy.

Watch the trailer for The German King here:

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