Der König und Sein Narr (1981)

Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - West Germany  |  
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This historical drama is the story of Jacob Paul von Grundling (Wolfgang Kieling) and his fluctuating, turbulent relationship with King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia (1713-1740). This period was one of wars and of intellectual debate and literary accomplishments. It is that setting that is embodied in Grundling, a professor of literature, history, and law, and a court historian of sorts. When King Friedrich Wilhelm I first comes to power, he dismisses Grundling from his university position in disagreement with his views. Grundling then writes a treatise against certain widely-held religious tenets that attracts the king's attention and his favor. Soon Grundling is back at court, parrying his wit and knowledge against his detractors -- though since he will not compromise on his strict ideals, his stays at court are punctuated with exiles or with disfavor. This up-and-down relationship with the king and the hardship it imposes on Grundling have inevitable bad effects: he begins to drink more heavily, vacillating back and forth on some of his ideals, but never giving up on them entirely. Since Grundling's very existence depends on the good will of the king, his viewpoints often put him in serious jeopardy -- and his fate will be determined by whether or not he can compromise either his beliefs or his intellectual acuity.