23 Die Geschichte des Hackers Karl Koch
23 – 1998
In 1980s Germany at the height of the Cold War, 19-year-old Karl Koch (August Diehl) finds the world around him threatening and chaotic. Inspired by the fictitious character Hagbard Celine (from Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea‘s Illuminatus! Trilogy), he starts investigating the backgrounds of political and economic power and discovers signs that make him believe in a worldwide conspiracy.
At a meeting with hackers, Karl gets to know the student David (Fabian Busch). David and Karl are able to hack into the global data network—which is still, at this point, in its early stages—and their belief in social justice propels them into espionage for the KGB. Driven by contacts with a drug dealer—and by increasing KGB pressure to hack successfully into foreign systems—Karl spirals into a cocaine dependency and grows increasingly alienated from David.
In a drug-addled state, Karl begins to sit in front of his computer for days at a time. Perpetually sleepless, he also grows increasingly delusional. When David publicly reveals the espionage activity in which the two men have been engaged, Karl is left alone to face the consequences. Collapse soon follows. Karl is taken to a hospital to deal with his drug addiction and mysteriously dies afterward.