Herr Von Bohlen Private (MiFo Film Festival)
Arndt von Bohlen und Halbach was known for many things, including being the last of the Krups, the 400-year-old German dynasty who were the country's largest weapons manufacturers. When he was born in 1938, in Berlin, his family's business was such a staunch supporter of Hitler's war that the Fuhrer granted them special dispensation from being nationalized like every other company, and he allowed it to remain in their hands.
However, it wasn't just the end of WW2 and imprisonment of Arndt's father Alfred for war crimes, or the Allies seizing Krups factories and dismantling them that signaled the beginning of the end of the dynasty's enormous power. It was also the fact that Arndt, the next heir, was an eccentric homosexual who had no interest at all in the family businesses or work in general. "That's the very last thing I need," he said.
This hybrid of a documentary is made up of re-enactments of episodes of his life with actors, but using Arndt's actual words. Intermingled with interviews with people who remembered him, like his estate administrator and a gossip columnist from that period, filmmaker André Schäfer has pieced together a profile of a profligate billionaire who simply had no grasp at all of the value of money.
It was, Arndt said, something that is loaned to us during our lifetime, and then passed on to the next generation when you depart this earth. Fine words when you can afford to live in a 72-room Schloss (castle) with 70 servants, but in fact Arndt himself -- who was a ferocious alcoholic -- died at the age of 48, allegedly deeply in debt.
Schäfer paints a picture of an outrageously flamboyant and hedonistic man who occasionally towed the family line, like when he married a well-connected princess for her title -- but he never bothered to pretend that she was his wife in anything other than the legal sense. He much preferred the company of young boys, with whom he would travel to his opulent villa in Marrakech, there to act in as decadent a manner as he wanted.
When his father was released from jail, he perceived that the only way for Krups to survive as a going concern was to turn it into a charitable foundation. This meant that Arndt would need to renounce both his inheritance of billions of German marks and the right to use the Krups name. He agreed, and even though his annual allowance was a couple of million marks per year, it simply proved insufficient for him to maintain his outrageous lifestyle.
Ardnt never comes across as a very likable man, but nevertheless, his unique story is fascinating if for no other reason than that other wealthy and well-born gay men of that era would have led totally closeted lives that we would never have heard about. That alone makes Ardnt's life seem much more interesting.