Rosen für den Staatsanwalt, or Roses For The Prosecutor for Americans, is a 1959 German Black Comedy. It's set in post-war Germany, during a period where former Nazi party members and collaborators who managed to bypass "denazification" were reinstated as civil servants in the young German Federal Republic.
It's a story about the Wehrmacht soldier Rudi Kleinschmidt, who is sentenced to death in the last days of WW2 by the Military Hanging Judge Wilhelm Schramm for buying two tins of chocolate from black marketeers. But he manages to escape the firing squad with his own death warrant, already signed by the judge.
Years later, Rudi is trying to make a living as a rather debt-ridden flying merchant and a peddler in post-war Germany. Schramm on the other hand, has not only risen to the head of of rather affluent family, but has been promoted to become a head prosecutor at a Federal German court, leaving his Nazi past in the shadows. As luck would have it, the two men just happen to meet again during a street sale...
Also, it's a comedy. It's one of the more controversial German satires of its time period, commenting on things that had been happening in both Germanies for years up to that point, but only became widely known as the movie was released.
It was filmed largely in Kassel, though the city itself remains unnamed in the film.
This movie contains examples of:
- Accidental Public Confession: "I herewith propose for the defendant... the death sentence."
- Alas, Poor Villain: While Schramm may be a hypocritical Jerk Ass, he is still portrayed as a very flawed human with his own set of fears and motivations. Especially after he is blackmailed by the contractor and after he blurts everything out in court, you'll easily feel sorry for him, simply by seeing how much the whole affair gets to him. With that said, he only got what was coming to him.
- An Aesop: Don't let Nazis get away with things!
- Apathetic Citizens: Just like in real life, many people were either oblivious, ignorant or sympathetic to guilty and convicted ex-Nazis practicing the same jobs as in the war.
- Based on a True Story & Hilarious in Hindsight: Scandals like these happened all the time (particularly one that involved the headbteacher Ludwig Zind, on which this story was based), until well into the 1980s, not least due to the strong solidarity among high-ranking ex-Nazis and the simply startling amount of people who were in one way or another Nazi perpetrators and avoided punishment by the allied forces in the late 1940s. Many people also fled Germany and got sentenced in absentia, just like that friend Schramm helped to flee the country for antisemitic remarks.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Schramm's elder (and adopted) son is a big Rock'n'Roll fan and thinks of Max Schmeling as one of the great figures of history. He also dislikes his foster father for his very 'German' view sense of family life and for what he implied to have done in the war.
- Dad the Veteran: Schramm to his two adopted sons. He is the disliked, authoritarian sort who can't get over the war. For more of that see...
- Dark and Troubled Past: Averted. Schramm hides his past as a Nazi Hanging Judge purely for legal reasons. He himself shows no remorse for what he did whatsoever. In fact he tries to carry over his old philosophies to his new position any way he can.
- Deadpan Snarker: Rudi himself gets a great deal, as he reacts surprisingly cynically to many of his misfortunes, despite seeming to be a pathetic goof. For instance, in the beginning of the film, he snarks about how they took away his belt after they threw him in confinement, probably so he couldn't hang himself, but left behind a clothesline nevertheless.
- Designated Love Interest: There is a romance in this plot, somewhere. It's not really given much focus, nor is it very important. It was mainly included to make the movie's rather crude main theme more 'digestable' for the audiences of the time.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: After accidentally sentencing Rudi to death in the courtroom, he quickly tries to gloss over it by suggesting the lowest possible sentence of four weeks of custody remand.
- Disproportionate Retribution:
- For Want of a Nail: Schramm's "It's not about the chocolate!" rhetoric. As a matter of fact, it's about 'the integrity of the Reich's fighting forces and the defense of the homeland'.
- Hypocrite:Schramm: Mr President... if there were any doubts about my democratic ethos... it would be totally laughable. *Jump Cut to people laughing as Rudi shows them his death warrant*.
- I Never Told You My Name: When a colleague tells Schramm that someone broke a shop window to steal two tins of chocolate, Schramm immediately frowns and says, "Give me the Kleinschmidt file!". Then his colleague points out that he couldn't possible have known the name just now. He ignores him.
- Ironic Echo: Schramm to his driver, "What are you waiting for, you bonehead?! Beat it!" Cue the execution guard to Rudy, "What are you waiting for, you bonehead? Beat it."
- Leit Motif: Schramm plays Entry Of The Gladiators by Julius Fucik (better known as that Circus march) on the radio on the way to Rudi’s execution because he is bored, just to show what a remorseless arsehole he actually is. This tune later comes back to haunt him, Rudi and the audience in many different variations. Also serves to point out just how audacious his behaviour and his situation actually is.
- MacGuffin: Rudi's death warrant.
- Meaningful Name: Rudi Kleinschmidt ("Little smith" in German) is a little, poor guy near the bottom of the social ladder. Dr Schramm (from the word "Schramme", which means scar or graze) is a mean-spirited antagonist with a very potentially violent backstory (in terms of helping war crimes).
- Missed Him by That Much: Rudi and Schramm bump into each other without recognising each other once.
- Ms. Fanservice: Lissy Flemming spends much of her screentime 'exposed' in one way or another. Especially for 1950s standards.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Four people come to Schramm to thank him for something he did for them in the past. He replies "Gentlemen, please! Not here!" Too bad those four happen to look a lot like Hitler, Himmler, Hess and Goering.
- Not What It Looks Like: When Schramm receives the eponymous white roses by mail, his wife momentarily suspects they're from a lover. It turns out that they were sent to him by the grateful wife of a man whom he aided in escaping charges of antisemitism.
- Oh, Crap!: "Private Kleinschmidt..."
- Only Sane Man: Schramm thinks he is, as one of the few real 'defenders' of the "righteous" Nazi ideology in post-war Germany. That's why he won't press charges against fellow Nazis (saying that it would be next to betraying his own ideals), and finds antisemitism to be a mere peccadillo.
- Product Placement: Scho-ka-kola was a real brand of chocolate both during and after the war (and still exists nowadays). It even gained the nickname "Fiegerschokolade" (Aviators' chocolate), because it was rationed primarily to Luftwaffe pilots (who relied heavily on its stimulating effect).
- Punch-Clock Villain: The execution guard who lets Rudi get away in the beginning. In fact, most of the characters in the film somehow served in the war. The film make a big point of distinguishing such punch clock villains from actually villainous Nazis like Schramm.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The President of the Court and the Attorney General, Schramm's superiors, are aware that something is most foul about him. However, they only begin to act when they hear of Rudi.
- Rule of Symbolism:
- The movie ends with Schramm taking the lift downstairs and clumsily descending the stairs outside the court building, being forced to leave his robe behind in the process.
- Right after the accountant falters and tears up the accusing letter for Schramm's superiors out of fear of risking powerful enemies, he walks past a public announcement sign reading "Citizens, protect your assets!"
- Running Gag: The corpulent contractor ogling Lissy when he's close by.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Schramm invokes this - it's partially true too.Schramm: A lot has to happen for something to happen to a prosecutor. *Jump Cut to Rudi coming into town*
- Self Deprecating Humour:Commissar: Mr. Kleinschmidt, you are an intelligent man, right? You know you are never supposed to apply logical thought when dealing with government agencies. You'll only stir up trouble that way.
- Shot at Dawn: Rudi's supposed fate for buying military chocolate outside the military circulation.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Is there any better ambient music for an execution than the very upbeat Entry Of The Gladiators?
- Those Two Guys: Neuss and Müller, the two moving truck drivers who are always there when Rudi needs a lift somewhere else.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Schramm himself is a very obvious expy of not only many TWN stereotypes, but also for a bunch of real-life ex-Nazis; devotedly fascist, tight-assed, bureaucratic, smug, sleazy, ignorant, and, last but not least, cowardly.
- Too Quirky to Lose: Rudi. In fact, his girlfriend compares him to the Leaning Tower of Pisa; he himself explains that, while the tower may not be straight, it hasn't yet fallen over, and that's exactly the reason why people like it so much.