Alfons Grendelmann (Der Fall)

Created by Kurt Früh
( 1915-79)
and Georg Janett

A dark, disturbing film from… Switzerland?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

But this low-budget, black and white Swiss detective drama is surprisingly effective, an off-kilter noir that packs a lot of grit, moral ambivalence and lives of quiet desperation into the murky fall from grace of ALFONS GRENDELMANN, a middle-aged, bitter ex-cop who was fired after he leveled charges of child abuse at some of his superiors.

With no other marketable skills, he becomes a Zurich private investigator. The good news? The Grendelman Detective Agency is actually quite successful. Unfortunately, middle-aged Alfons is miserable, lost in anger and a bone-deep loneliness, and doesn’t seem to give a damn about his clients, offering them often unwanted advice and criticism. He thinks he’s fine, going through the motions, working his small cases with disinterested competence, but he’s in free fall, desperate for something to live for; yet totally unaware of what’s right in front of his eyes.

And then he takes on a blackmail case and discovers the blackmailer is Marsha, an under-aged flower child working as a whore, who may be as lost as he is.

It all plays out in Oerlikon, a dreary industrial suburb north of Zurich that can’t possibly be as gray and depressing as it seems. As one reviewer on IMDB points out,  the sun never shines in Oerlikon. Either it is night or it rains or it is foggy. And it is always noisy.”

Mostly shot on location, the director and co-writer of the screenplay, milks this cold, cheerless urban setting (I’d say “local colour” but there’s none) for all its worth, while the attention to tiny details (like the posters of Muhammad Ali and Peter Fonda in Marsha’s apartment), and the nuanced performances are spot on.


Der Fall was acclaimed Swiss filmmaker Kurt Früh’s twelfth and final film, and it didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He hung around for a few years, writing his memoirs and a small book of poetry, but he passed away, sadly, in a psychiatric asylum in Boswil, in the Canton of Berne in 1979.  Georg Janett, who co-wrote Der Fall‘s screenplay, was an editor and writer, known for Variété Clara (1969) and Das Unglück (1976).


    (aka “The Fall”)
    (1972, Europa Film)
    Black & white
    102 minutes
    Screenplay by Kurt Früh & Georg Janett
    Directed by Kurt Früh
    Starring Walo Lüönd as ALFONS GRENDELMANN
    And Katrin Buschor as Marsha
    Also starring Annemarie Düringer, Fred Haltiner, Max Knapp, Klaus Knuth, Anneliese Betschart, Stephanie Glaser, Ellen Widmann, Fritz Lichtenhahn
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

One thought on “Alfons Grendelmann (Der Fall)

  1. “A dark, disturbing film from… Switzerland?”

    Well, yes, Kurt Früh’s other films aren’t a bundle of laughs to begin with, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s novels and plays have provided sources for a lot of grim films made all over the world – most notably The Pledge for English-speaking audiences.

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