In 1944, Bernhard Trautmann (David Kross) is captured in the forests near Kleve, Germany.He is a 21-year-old paratrooper and he has been fighting for four years. He is sent to a British Prisoner-of-War camp in Lancashire, England.
Jack Friar (John Henshaw), the manager of non-league side St Helens Town, sees Trautmann goalkeeping in a POW match and uses a combination of bribery and trickery to recruit him to play as goalkeeper for his side. One more loss and St Helens Town will be relegated, and to Friar, this is more than enough reason to bend the rules. The team itself is none too happy with the situation, but Trautmann plays and they win chiefly because of his prowess.
Trautmann loves football and is also glad to be playing because it means he isn’t doing as much hard labour as the other POWs. As the season continues, his contributions to the matches draws attention from further afield in the English football world. Meanwhile, Jack Friar arranges for Trautmann to work in his shop. Here he meets Friar’s daughter, Margaret (Freya Mavor) who, like many others in the area, wants nothing to do with a man who until very recently was an enemy soldier.
Bernhard Trautmann was called Bert by the English. His journey from POW and into English Football is a remarkable one, however these days it is little known by the general public. When German director Marcus H. Rosenmüller learned of Trautmann’s story, he was fascinated and tracked him down. It was 2013 and 89-year-old Trautmann wasn’t in good health, but fortunately for Rosenmüller, he was able interview him about his experiences.
The resulting film tells a very specific tale about a man who is forced to leave his home and through playing the sport he loves, tries to fit in and understand life in a different country. The people he lives amongst are reluctant to accept him. Many do not. Exactly how Trautmann deals with these circumstances makes for a continually engaging narrative.
David Kross is excellent in the lead role. Many international viewers will remember him for Stephen Daldry’s THE READER (2008). Freya Mavor does some fine work as Margaret. All performances are solid. Rosenmüller has directed numerous German films and this experience is evident in this German-British co-production.
Overall THE KEEPER entertains. There is a romantic strand running through it. Football fans will also find much to enjoy here. The matches are covered in detail and with style. History fans however, may feel there are a few unanswered questions regarding Trautmann’s journey. Even without digging any further than the details on offer, he is presented as a very sympathetic figure from the get-go. This suits the story the writers and director wish to tell. But Trautmann lived through some of the most complicated and tumultuous times in 20thcentury European history. Some of his war experiences are shown and one particular incident is given as a stand in for the horrors of war he experienced. It is not unreasonable for viewers to ask whether the Trautmann we are presented with, might not be an idealised view of the actual man whose story this movie is based on. Duration 120 mins. (7/10)
The Keeper is now in cinemas – You can also listen to our interview with David Kross who plays Trautmann in the movie – click here.