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Catch me if you can

Catch me if you can is based on the biography of Frank William Abagnales, who cheated his way through life as a copilot, doctor and lawyer between 1963 and 1969 - before he was twenty-first - and financed this lifestyle with extensive check fraud.

The story of Frank William Abagnales ostensibly tells of a young impostor who builds up the wealth of experience of a whole life in a few years, but goes beyond the framework of a biography as a mere description of the way insofar as it contrasts the disreputable status of deception and lies with their effectiveness in coping with life.

Frank William Abagnale succeeds in getting positions without any special training, which experience has shown cannot be mastered without specific knowledge and skills. One day when Frank sees a Panam pilot and his entourage disembarking in the hotel on the street, you can hear this pilot say to a boy who, in view of his appearance and status, asks him for an autograph: “Do you want to become a pilot? - Then be hardworking at school! ”- As if this were the ideal route to his position. A few scenes later, the audience witnesses Frank Abagnale telling him the lie. Knowing how to use the administrative organization of the Panam, he procures the uniform of a copilot and flies from coast to coast in this masquerade. With charm and a feeling for the right appearance, Frank gets exactly the information and information he needs for his dizziness. One could almost assume that Frank Abagnale went to the school of Maurice Joly, who was in his Manual for beginners adopts this very topic:

“... because you are successful: 1. Because you have characteristics that influence society and people. 2. Because circumstances come to your aid. However, one fails when the opposite is the case. ...

Since the secret of success lies only in the art of getting people so far that they serve the success of our intentions, one must first see how people find their way into the elements of the calculation [of a successful career]. ... People who need others have only one possibility to bring them to the point where they serve their interests, namely to please them. "

Every profession has two aspects: the activity itself and the associated image in society. Frank Abagnale is interested in the latter. Regarding the first aspect, however, one should not forget that most professions are not practiced in private. You are mostly involved in processes based on the division of labor and, in this respect, are essentially dependent on the goodwill and interests of those involved.

If we assume that Joly's confession is true, professional skills are at best a necessary condition for success, and only when combined with skillful interaction with others will they be sufficient. The share of each of these two components in success is most likely to be seen when looking at them in isolation, pure technical competence on the one hand and the knowledge of people on the other. And we find this separation of characters in Catch me if you can in front. The story features two characters who embody the division in question: Frank William Abagnale junior and Carl Hanratty. One of them launches several careers as co-pilot, doctor and lawyer with an engaging personality and without relevant training, the other follows his mandate in a calculative manner, as accurate and sober as a chess player, supported by the apparatus of an authority and thus not dependent on promising success for sale.

Abagnale and Hanratty are, despite obvious similarities - Hanratty is like Frank a loner and outsider, rejected by his colleagues because of his lack of humor and dogged conscientiousness - antipodes.


Note that Frank appears emphatically polite, indeed appears downright charming, always anxious to create a sense of well-being (for him) in his counterpart. Once he has made a lie to himself, he manages to stay there for a while by imitating typical behavior (learned through extensive study of television series) and skillfully delegating (“Are you d’accord?”). Hanratty, on the other hand, seems extremely brittle in interpersonal contact, completely focused on the matter. It would never occur to him that he would just want to get closer to his goals; if he had to make a living as a traveling salesman, he would starve to death in no time. Hanratty follows his affairs with the reliability of an information processing machine if programmed to do so. He belongs to that species of human being who, as the saying goes, goes to the cellar to laugh.

Hanratty puts on real Words, Frank puts on lovely Words. He has learned: Flattery is counterfeit money that would have no market value without the vanity of the addressees ... Hanratty's credo is: In life, it depends on who you are. Frank's creed counters this: In life, it depends on how you are perceived. Frank takes advantage of the fact that the medal hangs on the jacket and not on the chest. His engaging manner is, as it were, the catalyst for the effectiveness of his deception maneuvers. Ultimately, everything is reduced to deception: what else is the art of pleasing but the art of deceiving.

Frank's existence evolves into a single camouflage over time. When he realizes that he is getting away with his little rascals, lies and deception maneuvers, he becomes visibly bolder and more self-confident; and what begins for Frank as a stroll through life takes on more and more the lightness and nonchalance of a game for him.

Frank made his first significant appearance as a con man when his mother, who was granted custody after the divorce, took him to college after changing schools. Because of his habitus and clothing, Frank stands out from the other youngsters of his age. That excludes him, but he has mastered the trick of reinterpreting this exclusion in the eyes of the others in an exposed position. When he is deliberately jostled by a classmate and also learns that he is attending the same course with the bully, he instinctively hits back with his very own weapons: skillful imposture. Frank pretends to be the course's substitute teacher. Even at this premiere, Frank reveals the qualities of the successful con artist or. con manas it is called in the Anglo-Saxon language area. He appears confident and determined in his role without showing the slightest uncertainty or weakness. When the right teacher shows up, he keeps his nerve and maintains his illusion. Frank's chutzpah is rewarded, the lady withdraws indignantly at the apparently desolate coordination of the duty roster. Only after a few weeks does the dizziness fly and his parents are summoned to the school management. The result hoped for by the school director - an educational measure by the parents - does not materialize, however: Frank's father in particular regards his son's Caprice less as a failure than a success.

Frank succeeds in such a hussar piece again on another occasion: when Carl Hanratty, his strategic and existential antagonist, finally succeeds in tracking him down in a hotel in Los Angeles, Frank mimics a Secret Service agent who is supposedly working on the same case. Even at Hanratty's gunpoint, he manages to convince his extremely suspicious pursuer of his mimicry. This gives Frank the space he needs to escape.

Frank Abagnale decides this duel in the unequal cat-and-mouse game for himself, although he cannot escape á la long: Hanratty can afford mistakes, they cost Frank his head when he makes them.

Frank internalizes a basic principle of social advancement that his father recommended to him: In order to gain a foothold in society, you do everything to appear as if you have already gained a foothold in it, be it through clothing, appearance, suitable connections, such as membership in the Rotary club, or other visible insignia of the established man.

Equipped with his talents, inclinations and father's advice, Frank tries to get through life. "Dear dad, you once said that an honest person has nothing to fear. So I try not to be afraid." Father's maxim, actually intended as a lesson that a clear conscience can only be had with honesty, turns Frank in his favor: from “If you are only honest, then you don't need to fear anything”, he says, “As long as you do not show fear "You are supposed to be truthful," which, by the way, is correctly deduced from Father's lesson.

In a telephone conversation on Christmas Eve, after Frank called Carl in the office, they discuss how Frank was able to successfully audition the agent at their first meeting in Los Angeles.

“I knew it was you! I didn't hunt you down [in the hotel room at the time], but I knew it was you! ”Claims Hanratty unconvincingly. Frank counters this with a remark, the truth of which cannot be denied:

"People only ever know what they are told."

"Then tell me one thing: How did you know that I wasn't looking into your wallet?" (Frank gave Hanratty his wallet in the hotel room in question with the request to convince yourself of his identity as a Secret Service agent; however in the expectation that Hanratty would be convinced enough by the mere handover gesture, which worked.)

"For the same reason that the New York Yankees always win: the opponent is distracted by the pinstripe jerseys," explains Frank.

Hanratty, following his conviction, denies by referring to the star of the team, Micky Mantle, that is, superior skill level (professional competence!).

Without wanting to resolve the dispute between the two views of successful action at this point, it should be noted that the effect of correctly chosen theatrics, not only in sport, is not a mere hypothesis. Ultimately, Frank's escape is proof enough of the effectiveness of his means.

One could argue that in the end, that is, in the long term, Frank failed and is inferior to the performance principles represented by Hanratty. However, in the end Frank does not fail because his "method" does not work (anymore), but because he takes it too far. One of the two major mistakes that Frank makes and which ultimately cause his failure is based on the fact that he exceeds the limit of what is legally permitted; the other is that it violates a basic rule of risk management (as it is called in modern German): you have to watch the right time when you bring your profits to safety. In his Hand oracle Baltasar Gracian notes

"That is what all players of reputation do. A nice retreat is worth just as much as a bold attack. You bring your deeds to safety, if there are enough of them, if there are many of them. Long-lasting luck is always suspect: the interrupted one is safer and the sweet and sour taste even more agreeable to the taste. The more luck piles up on happiness, the more danger they run off and all fall down together. The height of the favor is often outweighed by the shortness of its duration; happiness becomes weary, one so long to be carried on the shoulders. "

It is the same with Frank. The total volume of his forged checks is increasing, as is the manpower of the emergency services who are on his heels. He straddles the curve. When, to make matters worse, Frank loses his heart to Brenda, a nurse in a hospital he has slipped into as a senior physician, he finds himself in a situation that confronts him with a new situation: so far he has operated completely independently, maW he didn't hang on to anything he couldn't part with in the blink of an eye when he noticed that the ground was getting too hot for him.

Brenda suddenly became dependent on him and significantly restricted his freedom of movement. In a touch of desperation and naivety, he begs Hanratty on the phone to forget everything that has happened so far and, in return, to stop his rip-offs. As expected, Hanratty rejects him.

Frank's relationship with Brenda leads to further calamities. He is now forced to maintain a fictitious existence towards Brenda's parents. So far Frank has only lied to strangers, people he has only met once or twice; now he is forced to lie to people close to him.

In a private conversation, Brenda's father, himself a successful lawyer, expresses his astonishment at such an exorbitant career to Frank: “Lawyer, doctor, Lutheran? Who are you, Frank? Since I assume that you are asking for my daughter's hand, I have a right to know. ”,“ To know what, sir? ”-“ The truth! ”. While Brenda's father alludes to the person behind this career with this question without questioning the authenticity of the pretended existence, Frank interprets this approach as exposure and reveals himself: lawyer, doctor, Lutheran, ... everything is a lie! But Brenda's father reacts to Frank's confession differently than one might initially expect: he interprets the confession in such a way that the facade that Frank has put up is not damaged. He doesn't do this because he accepts Frank's identity as a deception and apologizes, no, Frank has already snuck into his heart ... It is a common certainty that everything that affects someone we like (not to mention a loved one) is interpreted in their favor. What we think of someone depends on how we feel about them. Let's take another look at Gracians Hand oracle

"The essentials in things are not sufficient, and the accompanying circumstances are also required. A bad kind spoils everything, even law and reason; the good kind, on the other hand, can replace everything, gilds the no, sweetens the truth and makes up old age itself. That We do a lot with things, the good manner is a pickpocket of the heart. A good behavior is the ornament of life, and every pleasant expression helps wonderfully from the spot. "

Frank William Abagnale, a pickpocket of the heart ...

Dr. Marcus Andreasson

Catch Me If You Can

USA 2002 - Director: Steven Spielberg - Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner, Brian Howe, Ellen Pompeo - Predicate: particularly valuable - FSK: from 6 - Length: 141 min.- Start: 1/30/2003


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