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Friday, 15 February 2019

Babylon Berlin

Has anyone else watched Babylon Berlin? A rhetorical question, hundreds of thousands have, but for me it was a television highlight. I love the creative frenzy, the bittersweet melancholic vibe of Weimar and, despite the occasional flaky blips in the plot, Babylon Berlin captures the feel of an age. It’s also a fabulous noir series in its own right. On another note, I also appreciated that the production company had to build whole sections of interwar Berlin destroyed by the exigencies of war. Or should I just say the Russians and the RAF.

But over an above the production values, the beautiful and understated charisma of the lead actress Liv Lisa Fries, what for me was truly stand out, and which every time gives me the shivers is the Zu Ashe Zu Staub scene shown below.

The performance, the lyrics and the innocent ecstacy of those dancing are a perfect metaphor of a doomed generation. Watch it, and you catch the sleazy glamour that captured millions, psychic heroin in its purest form: the colour and ritual, the excitement of Hitler. And as you watch, you see faces and imagine them ten years later as a prison guard, a casualty on the Eastern front, a mother cowering in a basement as bombs raze cities and the Russians advance.

One critic questioned its historical accuracy: ‘…one cannot but be astonished at one glaring omission: Where are the Nazis? Babylon Berlin takes place in 1929. By that time, the National Socialist German Workers Party is long a fixture of German politics…with the exception of one throwaway line, there is no mention of Hitler at all. Right up until the very last episode, there are no Swastikas, no brownshirts, no marching, nothing.’Tim Pfefferle

The simple answer to that is how that one performance says what a thousand words might fail to do. Every viewer will have a slightly different response (other than those focusing on women's bottoms) And all of them, I suspect will be a variant of the interpretive video below.

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