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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|
Sky 1 (Germany and Austria)|
Sky Atlantic (United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland)
Netflix (Australia, Canada and the United States of America)
|Original release||13 October 2017|
Babylon Berlin is a German period drama television series based on novels by Volker Kutscher. The series takes place in 1929 during the Weimar Republic and follows police inspector Gereon Rath, who has been transferred from the city of Cologne to Berlin, and aspiring police inspector Charlotte Ritter. The first series premiered on 13 October 2017 on Sky 1, a German-language entertainment channel broadcast by Sky Deutschland. The first novel of the book series, which put a premium on historical accuracy, is titled Der Nasse Fisch (literally "The Wet Fish") (2008). The TV series has been renewed for two more series.
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 also shows great kindness to Charlotte Ritter by paying funeral expenses and comforting her when her mother dies.
- 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 Nazis. 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 drawn into a conspiracy to assassinate Benda by planting a concealed bomb in his home.
- 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. He is the primary antagonist of Series One and Two.
- 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 Great 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: Mina Ritter, Charlotte's mother.
- Irene Böhm : Toni Ritter, Charlotte's little sister.
- Laura Kiehne : Ilse Ritter, Charlotte's elder sister.
- Pit Bukowski : Erich, Ilse Ritter's husband. He doesn't work and makes life even more difficult for the other family members.
- Jacob Matschenz : Fritz, Greta Overbeck's boyfriend.
- Julius Feldmeier : Otto, a friend of Fritz.
- Jeanette Hain : Irmgard Benda, counselor Benda's wife.
- Marie Gruber : 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 : Franz Krajewski, former soldier with psychical problems after the war.
- Marc Hosemann: Johann König, photographer and porn producer.
- Benno Fürmann as Ambassador Oberst Wendt.
- Frank Künstler 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) as "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.
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The series is the most expensive non-English language television drama series, costing nearly $40 million. It was co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Hendrik Handloegten, and Achim von Borries, who also wrote the scripts. For the first time in the history of German TV, German public broadcaster ARD and pay TV channel Sky co-produced the series. Sky broadcast the series initially as part of the arrangement, and ARD will broadcast it on free-to-air television around a year later. Netflix purchased broadcast rights for the United States and Canada, where the series is shown with subtitles.
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.”
A massive new permanent standing set was constructed for the show at the Babelsberg Studio. It included portions to represent many different neighborhoods in Berlin, including the massive exterior of the Moka Efti nightclub. It is known as the Metropolitan Backlot and remains in use for future seasons of the show and other productions. The series was filmed throughout Berlin and at other locations in Germany. Numerous scenes were filmed on Alexanderplatz in front of the historic Alexanderhaus. The Police Headquarters, once located directly behind it, and other surrounding buildings, were all destroyed in WWII, so they were recreated with computer effects. The Berlin City Hall was used for most closeup scenes involving the exterior of the Police Headquarters, because their red brick appearance and architectural style was very similar. Interior scenes in the Moka Efti night club were filmed at the Delphi Cinema in Berlin-Weissensee. 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.
The Berlin City Hall
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). Singer Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music appears toward the end of the first season as a cabaret singer. In the first double episode of the first season, 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). It is planned to be released on the German TV channel Das Erste in the autumn of 2018.
Der Spiegel's cultural critic, Christian Buss, 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."
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal (28 January 2018), German historian Thomas Weber commented, "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."
- Grey, Tobias (28 January 2018). . Retrieved 8 February 2018. . The Wall Street Journal
- 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.
- Official Site, in German and English
- Babylon Berlin on IMDb
- "Babylon Berlin – Our wild years" (An interview with Volker Kutscher) at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung website
- "Dancing at the Vulkan" 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