Netflix’s gripping crime documentary series, The King Who Never Was, dives into the life of Vittorio Emanuele, the prince of Naples and the last heir to the throne of Savoy. The series uncovers the shocking details surrounding one of Vittorio Emanuele’s most chilling controversies—the murder mystery of a 19-year-old boy named Dirk Hamer. Throughout four decades of tireless struggle, the victim’s sister, Birgit Hamer, fought relentlessly for justice, and the series follows her journey to its eventual conclusion. However, the question remains: Did Birgit’s fight for justice yield a satisfactory outcome, or did she simply have to accept whatever small measure of justice she could achieve?
The King Who Never Was meticulously highlights the challenges Birgit faced along the way. The series explores the intricacies of the legal system and the power dynamics that favored the wealthy and influential, like Vittorio Emanuele. As each episode unfolds, a distinction becomes evident between those with power and those without. While maintaining a neutral perspective, the series provides a platform for both Vittorio Emanuele and Birgit Hamer to share their sides of the story. However, while Birgit’s persona is seen as a rebellious and resolute figure committed to seeking her fundamental right to justice, Vittorio’s demeanor and lack of remorse add a significant layer of secrecy to his character.
Following the 1946 referendum, which resulted in the exile of the royal Savoy Family of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele was only a young boy who was uprooted from his homeland. This forced displacement not only affected Vittorio Emanuele but also had a profound impact on his son, who never had the opportunity to experience his own country during his early years. The Savoy Family, consisting of Vittorio, his wife Marina, and their son, relocated to the island of Cavallo in Corsica, France. The Mediterranean island became their sanctuary away from the political landscape that had stripped them of their power and position. However, things took an unexpected turn during the delightful summer of 1978 in France, when a group of young Italian adults was joined by a young and attractive model named Birgit and her brother for an exuberant boat trip to the island of Cavallo. Little did they know that this summer trip would set the stage for a tragic turn of events. Amidst the joyous atmosphere of family and friends, Vittorio Emanuele was caught up in a sense of ownership over “his” island.
The carefree nature of the group, putting out too much noise, continuously frustrated Vittorio. Frustration mounted when, later that fateful night, he found the dinghy attached to his boat missing. As agitation escalated, Vittorio took his rifle and engaged in a heated fight with one of the young men, Nicky Pende. In a moment of reckless anger, Vittorio reached for his rifle and fired two gunshots, one of which tragically shattered the window of a nearby boat, causing a grievous injury to Birgit’s brother Dirk. Birgit woke up and found her brother Dirk severely injured. As she witnessed the profuse bleeding, Birgit quickly took the necessary actions.
Despite quick efforts to rush Dirk to the hospital and the subsequent 19 surgeries the teen endured, his valiant battle between life and death was lost. This devastating loss ignited a fire within Birgit, as she promised to seek justice for her beloved brother. However, seeking justice wasn’t an easy path for her, as Birgit soon found herself entangled in a power battle against a member of a royal family. Although Vittorio was initially arrested, his status and influence soon facilitated his release, leaving Birgit to face the injustices of society. But being undeterred on her journey, she pursued her cause relentlessly for 13 years, finally succeeding in bringing the crown prince, handcuffed, to the court of law. Yet, despite her tireless efforts and the symbolic victory of seeing Vittorio face the consequences of his actions, the ultimate outcome was disheartening and heartbreaking for Birgit. The culmination of Birgit’s journey showcased the horrifying reality of confronting a member of the royal family, which didn’t only end in disappointment but also wasted some crucial years in Birgit’s life.
The series masterfully portrays the undeniable influence of wealth and privilege, showcasing the illimitable advantages that come with being rich and powerful. The series exposes the corruption within positions of authority and highlights the flawed justice system. It vividly portrays a stark reality where the concept of justice is subjective, and individuals’ personal definitions of justice often differ from societal norms, especially those dictated by a capitalist structure. However, what sets this series apart is its commitment to giving each character equal screen time, allowing them to present their version of the truth, which provides the narrative with more nuance.
One notable aspect of the series is its stunning cinematography, which effortlessly evokes nostalgia through soft pastel filters from the 1970s. The visuals alone are delightful, but amidst the gravity of the case, it becomes difficult to fully revel in the beauty of colorful France portrayed in the series, as it constantly reminds us of the underlying tragedy.
Overall, the series is captivating and thought-provoking, shining a light on the differences between powerful and ordinary people. It shows the difficulties faced by those who dared to challenge the ruling class. Despite the disturbing nature of the incident, it is presented artistically and leaves a lasting impression. It reminds us of the complexities of society and challenges us to think about the balance between power and justice. The King Who Never Was is a visually and intellectually engaging series that you must include in your watchlist.