Chess Story

2021 [GERMAN]

Drama / Thriller / War

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright71%
IMDb Rating6.8102716

chessplaying chess

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN

Top cast

Albrecht Schuch Photo
Albrecht Schuch as Franz-Josef Böhm und Mirko Czentovic
Rolf Lassgård Photo
Rolf Lassgård as Owen McConnor
Oliver Masucci Photo
Oliver Masucci as Dr. Josef Bartok
Joel Basman Photo
Joel Basman as Barkeeper Willem
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1 GB
Turkish 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 51 min
P/S 15 / 77
1.86 GB
Turkish 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 51 min
P/S 14 / 88

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by kerstinwiede-18 / 10

Great Adaptation

Wonderfully visual adaptation of Stefan Zweig's chess novella. Intelligent and emotional. Reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's "Memento" and "Shotter Island". From now on I am a Philip Stölzl fan. Excellent casting. Oliver Masucci is breathtakingly good, just terrific. Go out and watch this movie.

Reviewed by Breumaster9 / 10

Great Story, Great Acting, Great Cinematography, Great ....

This movie is great on many bases. It shows the power of mind in a way, which is very understandable. I see no flaw in this movie, but it clearly is difficult content, because it deals with a time that is gone a long time ago. I can imagine that many younger people can't understand the meaning of that all. The movie is being carried perfectly by the whole cast and especially by Oliver Masucci. It tells the story also in flashbacks, which are clear enough. One of the best German literature filming. I recommend it especially for people who are interested in this timeframe of history of Austria and Germany and literature. Also it isn't biographical, it shows likewise circumstances.

Reviewed by Horst_In_Translation6 / 10

Really cruel movie, but frequently also really good

"Schachnovelle" is one of the defining German 2021 movies and the international title is "The Royal Game". This one basically excludes the book element because the German title also includes the form of the book this film is based on. A bit difficult to explain. Just like "Dreigroschenoper" includes "Oper". Anyway, we read the book at school, the one this is based on and I remember it was one of not too many books that I liked, maybe because I have liked chess for a long time as well, already as a child or maybe also because of other reasons. So I was a bit curious about this film and I wonder if it is a coincidence that it came out now not too long after a certain chess-based series in America made massive waves and received a gigantic amount of praise. Anyway, this movie here runs for 110 minutes and the director is Bavarian Philipp Stölzl, perhaps one of the most successful German filmmakers these days and I remember really liking his The Physician from a few years ago. So the premise, not only in terms of the book, this film is based on looked promising. And I was surely not disappointed here. But I will get to that later. One reason for the success is surely writer Eldar Grigorian and with him I am a bit surprised that he was in charge here. His body of work before this film and also his focus on direction did not make it obvious that he would be picked to pen such a huge project. However, luckily he did really well and I enjoyed the outcome quite a bit here. Also thanks to him.

Then there is the cast of course. You see the people on the poster here on imdb. The big head on the right belongs to Oliver Masucci. The cast list here on imdb is a bit confusing because it is alphabetical and not ordered by significance or screen time. He is the one and only lead in this film of course and in almost every scene from beginning to end. He has surely turned into one of Germany's most successful actors by now, especially if we are looking at domestic movies, even if from what I have seen he has also been in international television projects lately. His take as a certain someone who is back again a few years ago was a bit of his breakthrough as a lead actor and since then he has scored one interesting lead role after the next. He also won the German Film Award this year for his portrayal of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, even if he could have been nominated for this film we have here as well. He was nominated (and won) for both films at the Bavarian Film Awards I see. Also nominated for a German Film Award in the supporting category was Birgit Minichmayr. She is a bit of the epitome of the (relatively) young German supporting actress since her turn in Der Untergang. You don't see her play lead characters like she did in "Alle Anderen". I am not sure her performance here was really nomination-worthy though. I mean she was good and everything (and her voice was nice indeed) and a revelation about her character is pretty memorable, but the performance alone did not leave a huge impact on me. The main antagonist you also see on the poster. That is the character played by Albrecht Schuch. He managed the rare feat not too long ago to win both German Film Awards for male actors in one year and he played the antagonist in Berlin Alexanderplatz and plays a totally different antagonist in this film here. Even if both are ruthless and evil you can say. Then again, the films are set during completely different eras, so no surprise the characters differ a lot as well. There are other familiar faces here like Finzi (who I don't like too much),Lassgård (who I liked more) and Andreas Lust. The latter I always like, even if he was nothing but a violent brute this time and his thick Austrian accent was also impossible to understand.

Oh as I just mentioned Berlin Alexanderplatz I can also say that this film here is not a modern take on an old book, but really they stayed with the story and settings from back then. The good news is that the result is also technically a pretty good movie. This refers to all kinds or production values, no matter if we are talking costumes (the only German Film Award it won, pretty early during the ceremony, so I thought there would be more to come, but nope),sets, cinematography or make-up. Very nicely done. Also the physical transformation from Masucci's character was pretty devastating and added a lot to the depressing tone this movie delivered almost from beginning to end. It's tough to really find anything wrong with it. Honestly, at the start, I thought that it was not entirely realistic that he randomly runs into Minichmayr's character when entering the ship, but later on we find out she was never really there. Only in his imagination. She stood for his hope. We don't know what happened to her and if she is real at the very end or if he has been crazy from the very start or if it is just a consequence there of all that happened earlier when we see him in the insane asylum with the others eventually. As for the very best moments, surely the first encounter between the protagonist and the chess champion comes to mind and how the former presents his idea of not losing at least. The player there, the ship's captain I think, was initially overwhelmed too and did not take him seriously at all, but after the protagonist mentions a few names of old chess champions from the 1920s, he becomes curious and afterwards is overwhelmed. Oh yeah, said captain's change of mind from how he really wants Masucci's character to play to how he says that he should stop because otherwise he could lose more than a game of chess felt a bit abrupt to me. But I have to dig very deep here for inclusions that I did not like.

Here and there, I was even tempted to give the overall outcome 4 stars out of 5 and not just 3. But the (almost) final scene with how he really sees everybody there in his illusion with the antagonist (looking like the chess champion),his secretary, the violent Austrian, his own maid, his executed friend, his wife (I think they were married) etc. Was a bit much. It was probably like this in the book, but still. At least I did not like the way too much how it was presented here then. Really just a minor issue. The good moments are much more frequent. Take the scene in which the main antagonist finds the chess book and and also the chess pieces immediately afterwards and how he breaks one of those. You could really feel Masucci's character's pain there. They were all he had. Also his begging that the guy should not take the book from him was heartbreaking. The villain sees right through this and how this book (and the pieces) basically destroyed his plan to break the man completely to get the information he wants. He was a smart man. Here and there I felt a bit with Schuch as if I was watching Waltz in the Tarantino movie (IB) with the way he acted and the approach he gave the character. Especially the poof scene comes to mind. There, however, it was as much about Masucci how he fired back by saying he wants back to his room. It can be a prison, even if it is a nice room when there is no contact with other humans for such a long time. It was a year as we find out in the end. The protagonist has to go through other forms of torture too. Take the violence from Lust's character. Take the scene with his friend, who is shot in the head right in front of him. The Emperor of China reference there I did not totally get. There is a lot more to write about. I personally cannot really compare the book this is based on with the screenplay/movie now because it has been almost 20 years I think since I read the book, but the film is good enough. I could say "enjoyable", but that is probably the wrong word in this context. It is highly depressing and not only during scenes like those when he tries to cut his wrists and commit suicide. Slightly contradictory though because briefly before that he said that it is his knowledge (the codes) that keeps them from killing him and apparently he really wants to live.

Also look at the beginning and how the main character really does not take the situation seriously at all and thinks it will be over soon. Frequently with films, I am not too happy about intermittent flashbacks or actually flashforwards because it's not always easy to understand where/when we are right now, but here it was pretty easy to grasp, so they did well from this perspective too. It's not about the (missing) moustache, but all about the location probably. The ship was always easy to identify and so was the hotel, except maybe when he was alone in a room like when he locked himself in for a moment, but got help immediately. At the end, it also felt a bit quick and out of nowhere when he is let go and walking out of the hotel, which makes it more difficult to understand what was really going on and what was going on just in his head. They also told us early on who the hotel belonged to initially. That the Nazis stole it basically. This moment of freedom when he walks out was also pretty good, but still not as great as they intended it to be I would say. Alright, there are quite a few more scenes one could elaborate on, but I shall leave it at that now I think. This is a film you certainly wanna see. 7 out of 10 might be more accurate. Some great scenes and overall a good movie. It's also nice to see they can still turn such old books into great quality. Some great scenes (most of them devastating),overall a pretty good movie led by one or two (if we count Schuch) strong performances and if anybody doubts Masucci's talent, then there is no way he still will after seeing the outcome here. Don't think any other actor could have lifted the material to higher quality. He always reminds me a bit of Tobias Moretti, just a bit younger. "Schachnovelle" clearly gets a thumbs-up and there is certainly way more to discover here and many other interesting scenes that I did not reference in my review.

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