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|Created by||Tom Tykwer|
Achim von Borries
|Written by||Henk Handloegten|
Achim von Borries
|Directed by||Henk Handloegten|
Achim von Borries
Liv Lisa Fries
|Country of origin||Germany|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||16|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Production company(s)||X Filme Creative Pool|
|Original network||Sky 1, Das Erste|
|Original release||13 October 2017|
Babylon Berlin is a German crime-drama television series created, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries and Hendrik Handloegten, based on novels by German author Volker Kutscher. The series takes place in 1929 Berlin during the Weimar Republic. It follows Gereon Rath, a police inspector on assignment from Cologne who is on a secret mission to dismantle an extortion ring, and Charlotte Ritter, a young stenotypist who is aspiring to work as a police inspector.
The series premiered on 13 October 2017 on Sky 1, a German-language entertainment channel broadcast by Sky Deutschland. The first broadcast consisted of a continuous run of sixteen episodes, with the first eight officially known as Season 1, and the second eight known as Season 2. Netflix released the first two seasons in the US, Canada, and Australia. The third season is scheduled to premiere in late 2019.
Cast and characters
- Volker Bruch as Inspector Gereon Rath, a combat veteran of the Imperial German Army during World War I and a policeman in both Cologne and Berlin. A Roman Catholic and family friend of Konrad Adenauer, a future West German Chancellor, Inspector Rath struggles to reconcile his faith with his ongoing affair with Helga Rath, his sister-in-law. Rath also struggles with PTSD linked to his war experiences and survivor's guilt over the loss of his brother, Anno Rath, who is still listed as missing in action. Secretly, Rath self-medicates by taking morphine.
- Liv Lisa Fries as Charlotte Ritter, a flapper from the slums of Wedding and an occasional prostitute at the Moka Efti cabaret, who works as a clerk and dreams of becoming the first female homicide detective in the history of the Berlin Police.
- Peter Kurth as Detective Chief Inspector Bruno Wolter, a Berlin Police investigator whose affability masks unseemly tendencies. Wolter shows great kindness to Charlotte Ritter by paying funeral expenses and comforting her when her mother dies. He becomes the primary antagonist in Series Two.
- Matthias Brandt as Councillor August Benda, a Jewish Social Democrat and the head of the Berlin Political Police. A tenacious investigator and true believer in the Weimar Republic, Benda is equally loathed by Monarchists, Communists, and National Socialists. For years, the Councillor has been investigating a secret military build up which defies the Treaty of Versailles. He calls this shadow army, "The Black Reichswehr", and believes that, unless they are stopped, they will overthrow the Republic and plunge Europe into another World War.
- Leonie Benesch as Greta Overbeck, a childhood friend of Charlotte Ritter and domestic servant to Councillor Benda and his family. After a disastrous romance in Series Two, Greta is reluctantly involved in an assassination.
- Ernst Stötzner as Major General Kurt Seegers, a member of the Reichswehr's General Staff and DCI Bruno Wolter's commanding officer during the Great War. Gen. Seegers has secretly been building a large and modern military for Germany through the use of secret military bases and armaments factories in the Soviet Union. Although Seegers' violations of the Treaty of Versailles are known and approved of by German President Paul von Hindenburg and "half the Reichstag", he routinely orders the assassination of journalists and investigators who get too close to his secret activities. General Seegers is the mastermind of a planned coup d'etat to overthrow the Republic, arrest all politicians expected to oppose its abolition, and to restore Kaiser Wilhelm II to the German throne.
- Denis Burgazliev as Col. Trochin, a Soviet diplomat and official of Joseph Stalin's secret police. Under orders from his superiors, Trochin routinely masterminds the abduction, torture, and murder of both real and imagined anti-Stalinists among Berlin's Russian community. With help from Charlotte Ritter, Inspector Gereon Rath conclusively ties Trochin and the Soviet Embassy staff to the machine gun slayings of fifteen Trotskyists found in a mass grave in the forest outside Berlin and to the abduction, torture, and murder of a sixteenth Trotskyist found floating in a Berlin canal. Using this evidence, Trochin is blackmailed by Councillor Benda. Although Trochin and his staff have diplomatic immunity from German prosecution, he knows that Stalin will have him tortured and shot for having been caught. Therefore, Trochin breaks into his own offices by night, steals evidence of Soviet collusion with "The Black Reichswehr", and gives the evidence to Rath and Benda. They arrange to release Trochin's staff into his custody.
- Severija Janušauskaitė as Countess Svetlana Sorokina / Nikoros, a White Russian émigré, crossdressing singer at the Moka Efti cabaret, and spy for the Soviet secret police. The Countess is the secret lover of both Trotskyist leader Alexei Kardakov and right-wing industrialist Alfred Nyssen.
- Hannah Herzsprung as Helga Rath, Inspector Gereon Rath's secret lover of more than ten years and the wife of his brother, who has been missing since the First World War.
- Ivan Shvedoff as Alexei Kardakov, an anti-Stalinist Russian refugee and the leader of a Trotskyist cell in Berlin.
- Lars Eidinger as Alfred Nyssen, an arms manufacturer with links to Reichswehr and Freikorps officers plotting to overthrow the Republic and restore Kaiser Wilhelm II to the German throne. As expressed in conversation with Councillor Benda, Nyssen believes that the Republic is an aberration and that the absence of the monarchy is a disgrace to Germany. Benda says that Nyssen and his comrades are both Monarchists and anti-Semites who detest the ruling Social Democratic Party of Germany.
- Anton von Lucke as Stephan Jänicke, a young detective in the Berlin Police who has been assigned by Councillor Benda to investigate DCI Bruno Wolter for ties to "The Black Reichswehr."
- Waldemar Kobus: Döhmann, the pharmacist who provides Gereon his medicine.
- Hildegard Schroedter as Mina Ritter, Charlotte's mother.
- Irene Böhm as Toni Ritter, Charlotte's little sister.
- Laura Kiehne as Ilse Ritter, Charlotte's elder sister.
- Pit Bukowski as Erich, Ilse Ritter's husband. He doesn't work and makes life even more difficult for the other family members.
- Jacob Matschenz as Fritz, Greta Overbeck's boyfriend.
- Julius Feldmeier as Otto, a friend of Fritz.
- Jeanette Hain as Irmgard Benda, counselor Benda's wife.
- Marie Gruber as Emmi Wolter, Bruno's wife.
- Fritzi Haberlandt as Elisabeth Behnke, a grieving war widow and Gereon Rath's landlady. She is implied to be a secret lover of DCI Bruno Wolter, who served with her husband during the Great War.
- Jördis Triebel as Doctor Völcker, a female physician in the slums of Kreuzberg and senior member of the Communist Party of Germany.
- Mišel Matičević as Edgar "The Armenian", the impeccably dressed owner of the Moka Efti cabaret, and the leader of organized crime in Berlin. A ruthless but deeply principled gangster, "The Armenian" claims to "own the police" and routinely uses intimidation and blackmail to get what he wants. For his own reasons, "The Armenian" acts as a secret protector to Inspector Gereon Rath.
- Henning Peker as Franz Krajewski, former soldier with psychical problems after the war.
- Marc Hosemann as Johann König, photographer and porn producer.
- Benno Fürmann as Ambassador Oberst Wendt.
- Frank Künster as "Saint Joseph", a heavily tattooed enforcer and widely feared assassin for the crime family led by Edgar "The Armenian." "Saint Joseph" routinely dresses in the cassock and Roman collar of a Catholic priest to deflect suspicion while on missions for his boss.
- Waléra Kanischtscheff as Mikhail Falin, a Soviet Embassy official and assassin for Joseph Stalin's secret police.
- Larry Mullins (a.k.a. Toby Dammit): "Willy Schuricke", drummer at the Moka Efti cabaret.
- Jens Harzer as Doctor Schmidt, a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of World War I veterans with PTSD. Schmidt's belief that PTSD is a treatable illness is mocked by mainstream medicine and by the general public. They consider his patients to be cowards, who have dishonored the war dead. Doctor Schmidt is revealed to have changed the lives of many of his patients for the better, including Edgar "The Armenian." Doctor Schmidt repeatedly reaches out to Inspector Gereon Rath.
- Karl Markovics as Samuel Katelbach, an Austrian journalist living at Frau Behnkes's boarding-house, as does Rath for a time.
- Bryan Ferry as a singer in the Moka Efti cabaret.
The series was co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Hendrik Handloegten, and Achim von Borries, who also wrote the scripts. German public broadcaster ARD and pay TV channel Sky co-produced the series, a first time collaboration in German television. As part of the arrangement, Sky broadcast the series first, and ARD started broadcasts by free-to-air television on 30 September 2018. Netflix purchased rights for the United States and Canada, where the series is available also in English dubbing and with subtitles.
The series is described as the most expensive television drama series in Germany, with a budget of €40 million that increased to €55 million due to reshoots.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the show's co-creator, Tom Tykwer, spoke about the era:
“At the time people did not realize how absolutely unstable this new construction of society which the Weimar Republic represented was. It interested us because the fragility of democracy has been put to the test quite profoundly in recent years... By 1929, new opportunities were arising. Women had more possibilities to take part in society, especially in the labor market as Berlin became crowded with new thinking, new art, theater, music and journalistic writing.” Nonetheless, Tykwer insisted that he and his co-directors were determined not to idealize the Weimar Republic. “People tend to forget that it was also a very rough era in German history. There was a lot of poverty, and people who had survived the war were suffering from a great deal of trauma.”
The Babelsberg Studio created an addition to its Metropolitan Backlot for the filming of the series and for future productions, in form of a large permanent standing set, lauded by the company as one of the largest in Europe. The set includes representations of various neighborhoods of Berlin, including the prevaling economic classes, and also includes the large exterior of the night club Moka Efti. In addition, the series was filmed throughout Berlin and at other locations in Germany. Numerous scenes were filmed on Alexanderplatz in front of the historic Alexanderhaus [de]. The police headquarters, once located directly behind it, and other surrounding buildings, were destroyed in WWII, but were recreated with computer simulations. The Rotes Rathaus (Berlin City Hall) was used for most closeup scenes involving the exterior of the police headquarters, because their red brick appearance and architectural style are very similar. Interiors of the police headquarters lobby were filmed at the Rathaus Schöneberg, including scenes with its paternoster elevator, while the elegant Ratskeller restaurant in the same building was used as the nearby cafe Aschinger  in multiple scenes. Interior scenes in the Moka Efti were filmed at the Delphi Cinema in Berlin-Weissensee. A lengthy suspense sequence set during a performance of The Threepenny Opera, was filmed at the historic Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, where the play actually ran at the time. Other scenes were filmed on Museum Island and in the Hermannplatz U-Bahn station in Berlin, and the Church of the Redeemer on the Havel river in Potsdam. The scenes set on the estate of the Nyssen family were filmed at Schloss Drachenburg, a castle in the Rhineland. Scenes involving a steam train were filmed at the Bavarian Railway Museum near Nördlingen.
Side entrance of the Berlin City Hall, used as Police Headquarters
The lobby of the Rathaus Schöneberg, used as the lobby of Police Headquarters
Former silent movie cinema Delphi in Berlin-Weissensee, used as the Moka Efti nightclub
In addition to period music, "Dance Away", from the 1979 album Manifesto by Roxy Music, plays occasionally in the background (adapted to the style of the period) and also included is an adaptation of "These Foolish Things" and, in the Season Two finale, a Russian version of "Gloomy Sunday". Singer Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music appears toward the end of the first series as a cabaret singer. In the first double episode of the first series, the Lithuanian actress Severija Janušauskaitė as Swetlana Sorokina, crossdressing as the male singer Nikoros, performs the main theme of the series, "Zu Asche, Zu Staub" in the Moka Efti cabaret. This song was later released under the pseudonym "Severija".
Babylon Berlin premiered in Germany on 13 October 2017 (Sky 1) and in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland on Sunday 5 November 2017 (Sky Atlantic). The series debuted in Australia, Canada, and the United States on 30 January 2018 (Netflix). Broadcasting on the German TV channel Das Erste started Sunday 30 September 2018.
The first sixteen episodes cover the first novel in the series. They were written as one complete story and filmed as one continuous production. They premiered as one unbroken block, numbered 1-16, and have been broadcast throughout the world as one block. In addition, all 16 were made available simultaneously on Netflix. However, officially, the first 8 are known as Season 1, while the second 8 are known as Season 2.
The second block of 12 episodes, due to air in late 2019, are therefore officially known as Season 3.
Season 1 (2017)
|No.||Title||Original release date|
|1||"Episode 1"||13 October 2017|
|In April 1929, a train bound for Berlin has to make a stop near Novorzhev due to a burning tree lying on the rails. The engine driver and a train worker get ambushed by several armed men who speak Russian. The men connect an additional car to the train, two Russians replace the Germans who get killed via headshots. Meanwhile, Gereon Rath, a morphine addict and World War I veteran who works as an inspector in Cologne gets transferred to Berlin. He and his new partner Bruno Wolter visit a photographic studio which is actually a pornographic film studio. While they arrest Johann König, the owner, another man tries to flee and shoots at Gereon, but gets subdued by Bruno. Bruno lets him go since the man is Franz Krajewski, one of his informants. He fought in World War I and got fired from his job as a policeman because he overreacted in a shoot-out due to his PTSD. Franz goes to a therapist and tells him that the police arrested König and that they are looking for "the film". The therapist later meets with a mysterious man, only referred to as "The Armenian". The Armenian says he will take care of the film. At the police station, Gereon bumps into Charlotte Ritter after getting out of a Paternoster. She works as an archivist at the homicide division because she has to provide for her family who lives under pitiable conditions. She and Gereon part ways after gathering up their respective files they had dropped. At the end of the episode, two Trotskyists named Kardakow and Swetlana get a telegram at a printery telling them the train will arrive soon.|
|2||"Episode 2"||13 October 2017|
|Gereon interrogates Johann König who had been tortured by a mysterious man before the interrogation. He gets hold of the inspector's gun and wants to shoot Gereon, but after Gereon convinces him that his situation is hopeless, Johann commits suicide instead. This triggers Gereons PTSD, so he rushes to a nearby bathroom to take some morphine, but is unable to do so because of his heavy trembling. Charlotte, who is in the neighboring stall, finds him and helps him take his drugs. After this incident, Gereon phones with his father who is disappointed that the film has not been found yet and urges his son to destroy it should it reappear. A short time later later Gereon and Bruno get called into August Benda's office. He is the head of the police and asks them why König was heavily injured after Bruno's interrogation, but neither of them tell the truth. Benda has a private conversation with Gereon and asks him why he got transferred. Gereon admits that his friend, the mayor of Cologne, was blackmailed with a film that is said to be in Berlin. He asked Gereon to find it before the upcoming elections. Gereon looks for and finds Krajewski who can't tell him anything about the film. At night, Charlotte visits the Moka Efti, a popular variety theater. She listens to a singer called Nikoros, who is actually Swetlana in disguise. Charlotte follows one of the patrons to the club's basement which houses a brothel, and it is revealed that she has a second job there as a prostitute. Swetlana's fellow Trotskyists at the printery get killed by the same men who ambushed the train, but they miss Kardakow who was hiding in the latrine.|
|3||"Episode 3"||20 October 2017|
|The Russian train arrives in Berlin. One of the Russians returns to his home country while the driver stays in Berlin. Swetlana appears at the railway and tells the driver that the last car will be redirected to Paris instead of Istanbul as originally planned. When the driver gets suspicious, Swetlana threatens him with a gun, but gets stopped by German rail workers and arrested. The driver wants to look for Kardakow and goes to his pension, which happens to be the same as Gereon’s. The next day, Benda says during a speech that communist associations have planned to demonstrate on 1 May even though those kind of rallies have been banned in Berlin. According to Benda, the demonstrants want to bring down the government and wreak havoc over the city. Because of this, the police will be supported by additional forces from Spandau and Zehlendorf on the day. They will also be supplied with strong weaponery such as 100-round burst guns. Gereon pays a visit to Bruno and his wife Emmi. When he doesn't tell his colleague anything about his conversation with Benda, Bruno gets angry and arranges that the two of them will oversee the demonstrations together. Gereon returns to his hotel where he finds the landlady, Elisabeth Behnke, the widow of an army comrade of Bruno Wolter, gagged. He and the Russian engine driver get into a fistfight, Gereon is able to throw him over a balcony. The driver gets then kidnapped on the street, Gereon tries to intervene, but fails to save him. The driver gets taken to a warehouse where he is questioned by Trochin, the Soviet ambassador. The driver admits that the train is loaded with a great amount of gold bars. Meanwhile, Charlotte's mother Minna gets diagnosed with Syphilis. When she returns home, Charlotte fights with her brother-in-law Erich who lives with them but doesn't work. When he calls her a slut and a whore, she hits him with a stick and leaves. She goes to a cinema and tearfully watches the silent movie People on Sunday.|
|4||"Episode 4"||20 October 2017|
|Gereon is on the subway where communists give out flyers to the passengers. While on his way to work, he stumbles into a demonstration. The protesters throw stones at the police and shout "Berlin bleibt rot" (Berlin stays red). Gereon is eventually able to get out of the commotion and meets up with Bruno. They examine apartments of alleged communists, but don't find any incriminating evidence. As they want to leave, a large convoy of policemen shows up and starts randomly firing at the crowds which horrifies Gereon. He and Bruno flee into a nearby house. Two civilian women standing on a balcony are hit by bullets and seriously injured. Gereon is able to find a female doctor who treats poor people (including Charlotte's mother) and is a member of the KPD. Later, Gereon and Charlotte, who now writes his reports, go to the morgue to examine the dead body of the Russian engine driver. Charlotte points out that the victim's bruises are uneven and he therefore probably didn't die from natural circumstances. Charlotte's superior is furious about her remark and sends her away. Gereon recognized the man who had broken into his apartment, saying that the man had an argument with other Russians who resolve conflicts this way.|
|5||"Episode 5"||27 October 2017|
|6||"Episode 6"||27 October 2017|
|7||"Episode 7"||3 November 2017|
|8||"Episode 8"||3 November 2017|
Season 2 (2017)
The second season episodes were written and directed by Henk Handloegten, Achim von Borries, and Tom Tykwer.
|No.||Title||Original release date|
|1||"Episode 9"||10 November 2017|
|2||"Episode 10"||10 November 2017|
|3||"Episode 11"||17 November 2017|
|4||"Episode 12"||17 November 2017|
|5||"Episode 13"||24 November 2017|
|6||"Episode 14"||24 November 2017|
|7||"Episode 15"||1 December 2017|
|8||"Episode 16"||1 December 2017|
Following launch of the first season, the series received almost universal critical acclaim with an average IMDb rating of 8.5 stars and a Rotten Tomatoes critics approval consensus of 100%, summarising that "Babylon Berlin's humor and humanity pair nicely with its hypnotic visuals, resulting in a show that dazzles within its oversaturated genre".
Christian Buss, cultural critic of Der Spiegel, praised the series for staying true to the tradition of "typically German angst cinema", in the vein of 1920s silent movies such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis or Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. "It could be that Babylon Berlin is the first big German TV production since Das Boot which enjoys really relevant success abroad. Let's not be shy to say it: we [Germans] are big again – as the world champions of angst."
German historian Thomas Weber commented in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on 28 January 2018, "From a historical perspective, the series is very acute in showing how Weimar Democracy was under attack both from the Communist Left, as well as by traditional Conservatives, in a kind of unholy alliance." In the same interview, Babylon Berlin co-writer Henk Handloegten commented, "One of the main reasons to make Babylon Berlin was to show how all these Nazis did not just fall from the sky. They were human beings who reacted to German society’s changes and made their decisions accordingly."
The series itself received several awards in 2018. These included a Bambi in the category Beste Serie des Jahres (Best series of the year), four awards at the Deutscher Fernsehpreis (Best dramatical series, best cinematography (for Frank Griebe, Bernd Fischer and Philip Haberlandt), best musical score (for Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer) and best production design (for Pierre-Yves Gayraud and Uli Hanisch), a special Bavarian TV Award and a Romy for TV event of the year. In the same year, everyone majorly involved with the production of the series won a Grimme-Preis, including Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, the three directors and several members of the technical team. Bruch also won a Goldene Kamera in the category Best German actor for his portrayal of Gereon Rath.
The series' opening title sequence, created by German designer Saskia Marka and featuring a theme composed by Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer, was named the best title sequence of 2018 by industry website Art of the Title.
- 1920s Berlin
- Roaring Twenties
- Golden Twenties
- Weimar culture
- Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980 miniseries)
- Berghausen, Nadine (February 2019). "A fascination with the past". goethe.de. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
- Grey, Tobias (28 January 2018). "A Hit Drama in Germany, Babylon Berlin Crosses the Atlantic". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
- Moka Efti
- c:Category:Kino Delphi (Berlin-Weißensee)[better source needed]
- Connolly, Kate (29 October 2017). "Babylon Berlin: lavish German crime drama tipped to be global hit". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- Antrim, Taylor (30 January 2018). "Your New Winter TV Binge Is Here: Babylon Berlin". vogue.com. Vogue. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
- Sagatz, Kurt (17 November 2017). "ARD verteidigt Kooperation mit Sky bei Babylon Berlin". tagesspiegel.de (in German). Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
- Ströbele, Carolin (29 September 2017). "Die bebende Stadt" (in German). Zeit Online. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
Die Handlung ist hoch dynamisch erzählt und vereint sex, crime and history auf angenehm unaufdringliche Weise.
- "Goldenes Bambi lässt Hollywood strahlen". B.Z. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "Preisträger 2018 › Deutscher Fernsehpreis 2019". www.deutscher-fernsehpreis.de (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Krei, Alexander. "Das sind die Gewinner des Bayerischen Fernsehpreises 2018". DWDL.de (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Silber, Christoph. "ROMY-Sonderpreise: Schweighöfer, "Babylon", Ninjas & Universum". Kurier (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "Babylon Berlin (ARD Degeto/Sky)". grimme-preis.de (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "Volker Bruch bedankt sich für die GOLDENE KAMERA". goldenekamera.de (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "Top 10 Title Sequences of 2018". Art of the Title. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
- Official Site, in German and English
- Babylon Berlin on IMDb
- official site of the Metropolitan Backlot, primary location for the show
- "Babylon Berlin – Our wild years" (An interview with Volker Kutscher) at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung website
- "Dancing on the Volcanoe" at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung website
- "Record budget for Babylon Berlin" at Spiegel Online website
- "Top event for broadcast, telecoms, media and entertainment industries" at Medien Business website
- "Filming by helicopter on 1 November 2016 for the Babylon Berlin crime series" at Woernitz Franken's website