Judith Beheading Holofernes Caravaggio WEB

A genre is booming: The lust for crime

TRIGGER WARNING: Explicit depictions of everyday violence

Truth and Reality - the two divas have a starring role in True Crime books, movies, podcasts, games and series. Alongside now infamously legendary psychotic minds  like Charles Manson. Got goose bumps yet? Ever since Truman Capote wrote the novel "In Cold Blood" in 1965 as a "truthful account of a multiple murder and its aftermath," the genre has been known for goosebump moments. And it's becoming more and more popular. The seal of approval: based on true events. Facts are of public interest. But is this interest so innocent? Where does the lust for crime come from?

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Christian Bale American Psycho

"Crime pays" - it must be said. At least it's lucrative for many who tell crime-related stories. It pays right up until we've bitten off all our fingernails because the stories are so compelling. Of course, it's also about remembering the victims. But when journalists Paulina Krase and Laura Wohlers investigate "crimes and the stories behind them" on a bi-weekly basis in their podcast "Mordlust," [Murder Lust] or when German newspaper DIE ZEIT digs into wounds that never heal: What images then arise in our minds and why do we want to see them?

There is no shortage of images to accompany these stories. Every day, there are new true-crime cases to stream. Whether MAKING A MURDERER or SONS OF SAM, O.J. - MADE IN AMERICA or THE REMTSMA CASE ... in the documentary reconstruction of a spectacular case, the desire to involve the audience in the investigation resonates. And we don't let ourselves be asked for long before we become witnesses of the most gruesome deeds. At least, this idea could apply to any one of us. You don't want to meet real murderers in the dark, but they are welcome in the cinema and in the home theater.

True Crime Head

Is it a sick society that so willingly consumes a lot of True Crime as entertainment? Objection, your honor! True Crime promises enlightenment. Three RAF pensioners on the run for decades? Let's get on the trail together in a podcast! As children, we all enjoyed playing hide and seek, cops and robbers, and scavenger hunts. Diving into the soul of Charles Manson (did we mention him already? The ultimate evil personified!) or other killers could also have a preventive effect. It's the principle of the FBI profilers that genre fans know from the true crime series MINDHUNTER: If you understand the motives of yesterday's monsters, you can stop tomorrow's monsters.

You might also be interested in: Charles Manson, Manson Family, Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski, Sadie Atkins, Sexy Sadie, Tate-LaBianca-Murders

Helter Skelter Manson

It doesn't always have to be nonfiction. In ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, Tarantino chose to finish off the Manson gang in a bloody revenge tale. Just made it up. Cool stuff. But Capote wanted to make truth and reality the immortal heroines of his book. That's why he talked to the killers in prison and got really wrapped up in that insane world. Two years later, True Crime arrived in German post-war entertainment through the TV manhunt. Since 1967, ZDF has been hunting down criminals in the show AKTENZEICHEN XY ... UNGELÖST [CASE NUMBER XY … UNSOLVED] and chasing criminals in the process. A successful model. To this day, little has changed in the staging of the films in which the "XY" editors reenact crimes. After 45 minutes of rape, murder and manslaughter, it's not just some of the people on the run who are probably going to be sleeping badly.

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Alfred hitchcock murder

Speaking of fairy tales: The cinema documentary PARADISE LOST about innocently convicted youths in Arkansas is a fine example of the longed-for happy ending. It brought celebrities like Metallica to their knees and, after years, freedom to the boys. Jens Söring, the diplomat's son who was imprisoned in the USA for half an eternity, may also have benefited from the research for the documentary DAS VERSPRECHEN [THE PROMISE] when he was pardoned. Similar to MAKING A MURDERER, the audience was deliberately influenced. We all doubt the probative value of images, at least since O.J. Simpson profited from the TV broadcast of his glove fitting in the courtroom. But we also want to believe in the good.

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The O.J. problem is still very much alive in courtrooms around the world: Even the most realistic retelling of a crime is a production - and it has to be right. That goes for lawyers, defense attorneys, defendants, and ultimately the audience. Historical contexts cannot be ignored. And the fact that we are rewarded for our investigative work on the couch with glimpses through the keyhole in sensational cases and realize that we are not only interested in justice and solving crimes - that is part of the truth and reality of the true crime business.

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Now it's getting serious again: The 2021 documentary ANMASSUNG [ANAMNESIS] cleverly approaches True Crime on a meta level. The film team portrays the confessed murderer Stefan S., who was driven by his voyeuristic inclination to stalk a woman and take her life. In cold blood. Because Stefan S. does not want to show his face, he is portrayed in the film by a puppet. The two puppeteers also reflect on his background and actions. The filmmakers visit the murderer in prison, accompany him when he is released and finally witness his release. 

Then Stefan S. leaves them his cell phone picture files - and with this strange move makes us witnesses of his free-range outings. Goosebumps. What was the voyeur looking at on the way? The significance of such images for a person's character is put to the test. But also the motivation behind the preoccupation with this particular guy. Is there also complicity in the proximity to the criminal? In a video game, one would ask: Am I already part of the game? Such questions usually remain open in the genre. Star killers like Manson or the Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have made it to the cover of Rolling Stone. Truth and reality - the two divas, on the other hand, tend to appear in true crime stories in the form of phantom images.

You might also be interested in: Murder Ballads, Helter Skelter