De man op den achtergrond


The guests at Count Otto von Trepow's East Prussian estate Gross-Ehrenfeld are Lord and Lady Ruthven, Mr Hendriks with his wife and foster-daughter Mariska, a gypsy they adopted years ago, Kundry, the fiancée of Otto's son Bernhard, and Count Stanislaus Larinski, who claims to be a Polish revolutionary wanted by the Russian government. A boating trip is organized but ends when the motor breaks down. While waiting for it to be repaired, the guests go to an inn run by Andreas and his daughter Käthe. Hendriks goes for a walk, sees the boat come back and that a man with a bent back leaves it. He notices that Kundry is afraid of Bernhard. Bernhard makes advances to Mariska, but she shuns him. Hendriks receives a letter from his friend, the detective Geoffrey Gill, saying that he will soon be in the neighbourhood, but that no-one must be told. Also an anonymous note comes, warning him that he and his family are in danger and should go away immediately. From time to time Hendriks sees the man with the bent back, but the mysterious man avoids a meeting. The forester takes Mrs Hendriks and Mariska into the forest to see the deer feeding, but warns them to stay in the carriage. A wolf appears and is shot. Frightened by the noise, the horses bolt. Mrs Hendriks jumps from the carriage, but Mariska is carried away and faints. The man with the bent back brings the horses to a halt. Larinski carries Mariska to a room in the inn and stays there alone with her. When Hendriks asks to see his daughter, Käthe tells him it would be dangerous to wake Mariska from her sleep. After a row with Otto about his son's behaviour towards Mariska, Hendriks goes to the inn where a light is burning. Through a hole in the wall, he sees the man with the bent back, Bernhard, Larinski, Peter and two strangers in discussion. Käthe appears and tells Hendriks that she bored the hole and hopes he sees something interesting. Suddenly, Hendriks is knocked down by Peter and brought into the room where the conspirators are sitting. The man with the bent back, who is addressed as Potowski and appears to be the leader, orders the others to leave him alone with Hendriks. When he straightens his back and laughs, Hendriks recognizes him as Geoffrey Gill. G.G. explains that he is on the trail of an international gang of thieves into which he has found a position of trust. Hendriks and Gill set off for Gross-Ehrenfeld, where G.G. is to be introduced as "Mr Bowles". They come across the body of Bernhard lying in a ditch with a revolver next to him. When the news of his son's death is brought to Otto, he accuses Hendriks of having fought a duel with Bernhard. Werner, the super-intendent of police, is called in to investigate. He suspects the man with the bent back who has suddenly disappeared. Also under suspicion of murder is Käthe, who once had a relationship with Bernhard. Gill shows his credentials to Werner and asks him to wait a few hours before taking action because he hopes to expose "the man in the background". That evening, Hendriks sees Mariska leave her room and walk along the corridor. Shortly afterwards, Lady Ruthven comes downstairs crying that her jewell case has been stolen. Werner suspects Mariska of the theft because she is a gypsy, but the girl steadfastly denies, even to her father, that she left her room. G.G. has spent the whole evening talking with Larinski. When Larinski retires, Geoffrey asks Werner and Hendriks to hide with him behind the curtains opposite Mariska's bedroom. Some hours later Larinski comes into the corridor, removes the jewell case from a flowerpot and returns to his room where G.G. awaits him. After a struggle, Larinski is overpowered. Then he is confronted with Käthe who tells how, under his hypnotic influence, she was forced to steal some jewels but, waking up too soon, was caught red-handed and unable to prove her innocence. Her crime gave Bernhard an excuse to end his relationship with her. Thereafter, using his hypnotic power, Lari


original title
Der Mann im Hintergrund
production year
censorship date
release date
Germany, Netherlands
original distributor
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Black & White


G. Donaldson, Of Joy and Sorrow. A Filmography of Dutch Silent Fiction, Amsterdam (1997), pp 225-227

Centrale Commissie voor de Filmkeuring (Nationaal Archief; 9269)

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