[Spoiler-Free] Things are not going well for Josef Matula. Why is he lying unconscious on a North Sea beach? Maybe he should have kept his job in a Frankfurt department store.
But private investigator is what Matula does best. Four years after his final episode of Ein Fall für Zwei, Claus Theo Gärtner returns as Josef Matula. A German television legend is back.
Claus Theo Gärtner (born in 1943) first portrayed the street-smart, working-class Hermann Josef Matula in Ein Fall für Zwei ("A case for two"). The long-running series, created by Georg Althammer and Karl Heinz Willshrei for Galmon Film (later Odeon Film), is centered on a private investigator and a defense attorney who solve crimes in Frankfurt am Main. Matula was 31 when it started on pubcaster ZDF in 1981. When his partnership with Dr. Dieter Renz (Günther Strack) ended in 1988, the character teamed up with three other lawyers: Dr. Rainer Frank (Rainer Hunold, 1988-1997), Dr. Johannes Voss (Mathias Hermann, 1997-2000) and Dr. Markus Lessing (Paul Frielinghaus, 2001-2013).
In autumn 2011, Gärtner expressed his desire to leave after 30 years. The duo Matula-Lessing bowed out with the 300th episode in March 2013. Surprisingly, ZDF decided to revamp Ein Fall für Zwei around attorney Benjamin "Benni" Hornberg (Antoine Monot, Jr.) and p.i. Leo Oswald (Wanja Hues). With the same title but minus the famous theme composed by the great Klaus Doldinger (The Neverending Story, Das Boot, Tatort), the new version debuted in May 2014. Claus Theo Gärtner even had a cameo in a 2015 episode. Aired by ZDF on Good Friday, Matula (aka Matula - Wer Wind sät) is a 90-minute special written by Ben Braeunlich and directed by Thorsten Näter.
This TV movie was filmed last year in Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Frankfurt and on Föhr Island. Five years ago, German private channel Sat.1 tried to resurrect their crime drama Wolffs Revier (1992-2006), another creation of Karl Heinz Willshrei, with a terrible TV movie called Wolff - Kampf im Revier. Thankfully, the return of the beloved detective from Ein Fall für Zwei is a complete success similar to the comeback of Schimanski (1997-2013). Josef Matula lives in a motorhome in Frankfurt and makes ends meet as a security guard in a department store. He quits after chasing a thief too many in order to become a private investigator again.
His first new client is Dr. Claas Jessen, a lawyer. Jessen wants him to have a look at a friend named Agathe Wollert. Mrs Wollert, a 82-year old professor emeritus, recently moved to a seniors' residence in Cuxhaven and asked Jessen for help because she feels threatened. Matula drives to the North Sea coast with his motorhome to find the old lady dead, but he doesn't buy the accidental cause. Her phone leads him to the Bremerhaven Research Institute, where the professor used to work. There he meets Helen Petersen, a secretive PhD student, and Agathe's ex-colleagues Pr. Rolf Lech and Ann-Gret Dahus.
Matula ages well. His instinct remains the same and the man is still full of resources (well, except money). And he has a dog, or rather it's the dog who choses him. Its name, given at the end, is a nice nod to the past. The atmosphere of Matula - Wer Wind Sät is a pleasant mix between The Rockford Files and Nordic Noir, with a good plot and an appropriate sense of self-derision. Guest-starring Sinja Dieks (Helen Petersen), Ulrike Krumbiegel (Ann-Gret Dahus), Götz Schubert (Claas Jessen), Thomas Sarbacher (Rolf Lech), Lutz Herkenrath (Dr. Hans Zerbaum), Anna Böttcher (Gesine Franke), Josephine Ehlert, etc.
Matula is produced by Odeon TV (for ZDF and Austria's ORF) and distributed by ZDF Enterprises. Michael Bauernfeind exec produces. Thomas Höbbel is the line producer. Anette Kaufmann and Klaus Laudi are the producers. Music composed by Axel Donner. Joachim Hasse is the cinematographer. The real name of Matula's (fabulous) dog is Mumford and he's trained by Charlott Arzberger. Matula - Wer Wind Sät attracted 5.26m viewers (16.8%). A second TV movie, tentatively titled Matula - Der Schatten des Berges, is currently filmed until the end of the month. A third may be commissioned.
[Update - April 29, 2018]
Review of Matula - Des Schatten des Berges (Matula #2):