14. Jul, 2020

Babylon Berlin

I'm on Season Three of this German drama, extravagantly set in pre Second World War Berlin, but only just, as the brown shirts are about.  I seem to have got the hang of it lately and guessed some of the plotlines but that hasn't spoilt it at all.  It's lavish and realistic and the characters are complex.  The heroes are also antiheroes from the start.  Decadence spills out everywhere, as do corruption, ambivalence and the social and political upheavals of the time, which influence the action and the people.   The older policeman hides his ruthless amorality under a fat old facade of watchful amiability.  The younger, the stone faced protagonist, Rath, is, to me, an odd combination of Buster Keaton and my maternal grandfather, Leslie Coultish (seen here on the left, Gereon Rath above).  Something about small, slight, solemn, gymnastic, big nosed, big eyed and the occasional trilby hat being in it.

There's a plucky young heroine, Charlotte, who strides about in modern style in Knickerbockers, wants to be a detective to escape the grimness of her home realities and is into fetish prostitution but hey, it's the Weimar Republic, so who isn't?  The plot steams along and for those of us with a penchant for the Western, a train roof shoot out above a carriage which may or may not contain the family gold of the Russian countess, who may or may not be a Russian countess, is to dream of.  It's not the most cheerful of viewing, especially when the cabaret club torch singers get into their stride, 'Ashes to Dust' and 'Gloomy Sunday' (which apparently precipitated a rash of real suicides back in the day) soon letting you know what you're in for.

Rath is a difficult man, and he's a bit off his rocker what with the First World War and all, not to mention the death of his hero older brother, the family favourite, who may or may not have died due to Rath's cowardice.  Then there's the traumatised ex soldier drug addiction and the shakes.  On the other hand, he's a belting jazz dancer, which is shown as being hectic and on the edge, rather than performed like a period drama set piece.  Rath is in love with the wife of his dead brother and I can't help feeling that his nephew, Moritz, is destined for the Hitler Youth when they appear.  I think it's his beefy knees above the woolly socks he's far too old for that do it.  Tomorrow may well belong to him but today, at the start of the third season,  the plotlines are just as engrossing as I found them at the start.  And you really do care about what happens to people, which isn't always what you think it's going to be.

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