Ulli Lommel’s Tenderness of the Wolves hews largely to the true life facts of German serial killer, Fritz Harrmann. The screenplay was written by star Kurt Raab, and the production features the troupe of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, including Fassbinder himself in a small role.
The Germany of the film is run-down, falling apart, and dismal, as are the lives and homes of the characters. The major transposition is placing the narrative in post-WWII Germany, rather than post-WWI, though this was said to have been for a financial rather than political reason. Either way, it’s not a pleasant time and perfect for the amoral and sinister Harrmann to abduct children and young men for exploitation and death without drawing much attention.
His role as a police informant gives him the power to elude police and futrther manipulate the vulnerable runaways and strays upon whom he preys.
Raab doesn’t instill Harrmann with exactly empathetic traits, but does portray him as a tortured soul as well as opportunistic murderer. Harrmann’s homosexuality is very much of the text, his longing and desire perverted into abuses. I’m not sure I have a fully coherent reading from that angle.
It’s quite depressing, really.
And yes, Fritz Lang’s M is echoed throughout.
I guess that’s the thing about the Tenderness of the Wolves. They’re not so tender at all.