Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s crime novel and movie “Das Versprechen” – “The Pledge” Posted by Sandra Rösner on May 24, 2011 in Film, Literature
Here is a rough plot outline for all who are not familiar with the movie: Police Detective Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) is on the verge of retirement. On his Abschiedsfeier (farewell party) he receives the message that a little girl was murdered. He immediately initiates investigations. Shortly after some investigation, the police are convinced that they have found the mutmaßliche Täter (suspect) and close the case, but for Black the case is completely incongruous and from then on he is obsessed with the idea to convict the ‘real’ murderer.
“The Pledge” was directed by Sean Penn and was released in 2001. But Penn’s screen adaption was not the first one.
In 1957, Dürrenmatt was assigned to script a TV movie, which should address the topic of sexual offenses on children. The Uraufführung (first release) of the resulting movie “Es geschah am hellichten Tag” (lit. It happened in broad daylight) took place on July 4th, 1958 at the 8th Berlinale, the international film festival in Berlin.
Although Dürrenmatt was satisfied with the movie, he was not really enthusiastic about it. He said that the protagonist Dr. Hans Matthäi, who was acted by Heinz Rühmann, was too bourgeois. He would have appreciated it when the movie would have been more defiant and burlesque. Dürrenmatt also did not like the end of the movie, where Dr. Matthäi convicts the murderer. Therefore, Dürrenmatt wrote his own version of the story, which was based on the script. Unlike in the movie, the protagonist in his novel begins to suffer from emotional distress and mental problems.
Sean Penn’s adapted Dürrenmatt’s alternative deliberations. And I find that Jack Nicholson was able to transform Dürrenmatt’s intentions very well. However, Penn’s adaption distinguishes from Dürrenmatt’s work, too. For example, Dürrenmatt’s protagonist is not about to retire but to go to Jordan in order to train the police there. But I won’t discuss this matter here in detail.
If you like you can watch the 1958 movie on YouTube. There you will find the complete movie. Below you can find the first part of it.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxH7xheBOj8
And finally, if you like to improve your German I would suggest to get a bilingual edition (German and your mother tongue) of one of Dürrenmatt’s comedies, for example, “Die Physiker” –“The Physicists”, which is somewhat ghoulish but also really hilarious. It is about three psychopaths in a madhouse, one of them is a real physicist and the two others think they are the physicists Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. Maybe you have already come across one of Dürrenmatt’s works?