Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Babylon Berlin (Netflix) Looks At 1929 Berlin As Democracy Struggles To Survive

Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch)
This tight German series focuses on a Köln (Cologne) police officer, Gereon Rath, transferred to Berlin.  There are lots of plots and subplots.   A secret army unit is rebuilding the German air force clandestinely in Lipetsk outside of Moscow and plotting with a rich industrialist.  Trotskyites have brought a train full of poison gas and gold to Berlin.  There's factions inside the police department, and everyone seems to cross paths in the Armenian's nightclub/whore house, which gives the Armenian useful knowledge and power.

The Weimar Republic is only a few years old as Germany tries to recover from WWI and the sanctions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, which, forbade Germany from having an air force.

Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries)
There are lots of other characters with rich parts, but the other key character is Charlotte Ritter, living in a wretched flat with difficult relatives, making ends meet working at the Armenians nightclub and aspiring to become a police detective in a force where women are only in supportive roles.

The New York Times writes:
This new epic crime drama, set during the Weimar Republic, the chaotic 15-year era that preceded the Third Reich, is widely predicted to become an international television sensation. Reportedly the most expensive German-language TV show ever produced,  . . .
"The makers of “Babylon Berlin,” however, were interested in exploring the prelude to the Third Reich. 'All these people didn’t fall from the sky as Nazis,' Mr. Handloegten said. 'They had to become Nazis. . .'
“In 1929, there were no Nazis in Berlin,” said the producer Stefan Arndt. “You cannot see or even smell that there’s danger coming.”
The acting is superb and the story gripping, with a dash of history just before the collapse into fascism.   A big hit since it began airing in Germany last October, it's on Netflix now.

[Screenshots turned out black, so I took photos of the screen to get the images.  These stills don't do these two charming actors justice.  And if you're having trouble seeing links to the NYTimes and other papers, try opening a "new private window" in your browser and pasting in the URL.]

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