BABYLON BERLIN is a tale of 1920’s Berlin, its seedy underbelly and those who are trying to survive.
I admit, I was hooked by the trailer for this German noir series with the seductive and sinister ‘Wir kommen’. Yes, it’s another programme with subtitles but as with Scandi-noir, please don’t let this put you off. BB is a visual treat, perfectly invoking the atmosphere of a post-war Germany where riches and poverty rub along side by side. There is a hint of seething unrest, and people are not who they seem to be.
From the evocative shot of the steam train threading its way through the Russian forest towards Berlin, to the filming of a Nativity scene that definitely does NOT belong in any church, this first programme asks many questions.
What is the connection between the ‘hero’, Inspector Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), and the porno-film producer Konig? They’re both originally from Cologne, yet both turn up in Berlin. They know each other, and there is no love lost between them. What is in the missing film that Rath and the rest of the Vice Squad are hunting for? And who is in the photograph that Rath finds under a reel of film – a photograph showing two women and a man in a compromising position, the man’s face savagely scratched out?
It’s obvious that Rath has issues; before the raid on the film studios he’s taking drugs to calm his shaking hands. But is this a result of his experience in the trenches, or something else? If you’ve read the book then you’ll know – but as a total BB novice, this is all to be found out and the elusive clues still to be hunted down.
We are also introduced to Lotte (Liv Lisa Fries), a young woman living in a run-down apartment, the family behind on the rent (probably not for the first time). She is a hard-working girl, but we can only guess at the work she does at night – the only clue being a suspicious bruise on her neck.
She goes to the Police Headquarters in the centre of Berlin in the hope of gaining any part-time typing work and earning a handful of Deutschmarks. Lotte is lucky, she is given the unenviable task of creating a register of crime scene photographs. She bumps into Rath as they exit the lifts late that same evening, and we just know that their fates are going to be intertwined.
As well as the porn and the hints of Rath’s mental anguish, we also have an underground Russian revolution which is connected to the steam train and its mysterious cargo heading towards Berlin, a creepy psychiatrist and a black market alcohol racket besides. There is a LOT of story in one programme, and you just know that there is going to be no happy ending.
- Aired on Sky Atlantic, November 5 2017 at 21:00.