“If a rifle hangs on the wall in the first act, then it will be fired in the last act.” Also, one would like to add to the dramaturgical principle that Anton Chekhov once formulated when it played no part at all and is already half forgotten.
It is the same in the third season of “Babylon Berlin”. At the very beginning you can see Commissioner Gereon Rath, who stumbles through an enormous hall. Papers fly through the air, people run wildly, Rath bumps into the dangling legs of a hanged man. We won’t get the resolution until 540 minutes later, at the end of the last episode.
The opening season, the opening credits tell us, is based on Volker Kutscher’s second Rath book, “The Mute Death”. It is a mild exaggeration. Anyone who has read the book will find a single element in the series, namely the spotlight that falls on the head of the main actress during filming, which Commissioner Rath, who rushes to the Babelsberg studio, soon sees through as murder.
There’s not a lot of coachman in there anymore
In the book, a crazy producer turns out to be a murderer who loves silent film and wants to sabotage the upcoming sound film. The series directors Tom Tykwer, Henk Handloegten and Achim von Borries are far too crazy motifs. With this historical material you have completely different, much more tangible, much more contemporary intentions.
In their first seasons there was, say, 25 percent coaching action. In the third it is maybe five percent. This is no reason for grief, as they remain true to the aura of the place, the color of the time and the character of its main characters. And now you understand better what they are trying to do.
The core team still exists. There is the headstrong Commissioner Rath (Volker Bruch) and the cheeky crime assistant Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries); this time they make it to the first kiss. Furthermore, Rath’s divorced wife Helga (Hannah Herzsprung) and his cake-killing boss Ernst Gennat (Udo Samel). But the focus on the characters changes and the arsenal expands, and it is primarily the new ones that show where the journey of this monumental series is going.
There is Lars Eidinger as Alfred Nissen, a name construct from two industrial dynasties (Alfred Krupp and August Thyssen); Eidingers Nissen has a dominant mother like Bertha Krupp and secretly finances the National Socialists like Fritz Thyssen. Eidinger’s family looks a little like the Essenbeck industrial dynasty in Luchino Visconti’s “The Damned”.
There is Julius Feldmeier as Horst Kessel (easily recognizable as Horst Wessel), a storm leader of the SA, who, like his historical role model, who later became a Nazi martyr, is shot by communists in the film.
Samuel Katelbach is Carl von Ossietzky
There is Karl Markovics as journalist Samuel Katelbach, who is physiognomically reminiscent of Carl von Ossietzky, the editor of the “Weltbühne”, where the revelation articles about the secret armament of the Reichswehr appeared; Katelbach is rushed by the police for such articles.
There is Martin Wuttke as Heymann, editor-in-chief of the tabloid “Tempo”, which is attacked by brown hordes when he publishes Katelbach’s article; a historical role model was the “Tempo” boss Gustav Kauder, another Stefan Heymann, editor of the “Rote Fahne”.
There is Trystan Pütter as attorney Hans Litten, who wants to save Greta, who was wrongly convicted of murder, from the executioner; the “Red Aid” attorney Hans Litten once brought Hitler to the witness stand and embarrassed him to the bone; he never forgot that and had him tortured to death in the Dachau concentration camp.
There is Ernst Stötzner as Major General Seegers, who can easily be identified as Colonel General Hans von Seeckt, Chief of the Supreme Army Command of the Reichswehr, who had ambitions for the office of Reich President in the Weimar Republic.
And there is above all Benno Fürmann as Colonel Wendt, gentleman rider, schemer in the background and, if necessary, cold-blooded murderer. There was a Hans Friedrich Wendt who began with two comrades (Hanns Ludin and Richard Scheringer) in 1929 to build up secret Nazi cells in the Reichswehr; all three were convicted of treason. Ludin was executed as a war criminal in 1947, the director Malte Ludin is his son. This is how circles in German history close.
So things are getting serious in Berlin’s Babylon. After the first two seasons, there was some criticism of the series’ Berlin picture: it showed us a sin-ravaged 1920s Berlin that had never existed before; but since no one has leased the “true” Berlin in between anyway, the wicked version, which Tykwer & Co. shows us in part, is a completely legitimate one.
What happened today what happened then?
It is less and less about twenties folklore anyway, although their friends are still served, for example with an occult evening in a villa. Other issues are emerging: How media are intimidated by street violence. How the judiciary persecutes unpleasant whistleblowers. As conservatives believe, they can contain fascists through cooperation, but are actually used by them. How elites try to protect themselves in the event of a takeover by making donations to the right-wing forces. How security forces are increasingly infiltrated by right-wing populists.
“Babylon Berlin” does not claim that his portrait of the past few years of the Weimar Republic can be transferred one to one to the presence of the Federal Republic. But it exposes patterns of social processes that can be observed here and now. For this, the three directors (and authors) take ever greater freedom from Kutscher’s template and historical data; For example, they postpone the Wessel murder for a quarter of a year and let Wendt be directly responsible for the death of Gustav Stresemann.
One can also doubt that there was ever a round in which Wendt and Heinrich Brüning (the Chancellor of Emergency Ordinance), Franz von Papen (the Chancellor who paved the way for Hitler) and Kurt von Schleicher (the very last Chancellor of the Republic) thrashed together , But this is not a history channel documentary, and how Tykwer, Handloegten and von Borries deal with historical figures is entirely within the scope that they once filled out.
It is also interesting to see what considerable additional weight the women of “Babylon Berlin” gain. Charlotte Ritter acts even more independently from the men of the homicide commission than in the book, her little sister Toni goes her own way. Helga Rath completely disconnects from her husband. Greta becomes a figure of tragic size. Anna-Marie Nyssen dominates her rebellious son. Esther Kasabian (played by Meret Becker) turns out to be much more than a silent film diva. Elisabeth Behnke (Fritzi Haberlandt), Rath’s former housekeeper, develops unimagined initiative. And Malu Seegers (Saskia Rosendahl) reveals the secret plans of her general father.
The fourth season is already in the making
In the end – which is of course not the end, the fourth season is already in the making – the directors have cleverly divided the climax. There’s an action finale in series eleven, and there’s the truly devastating finale in series twelve when Chekhov’s rifle is finally pulled off the wall. It’s a tremendously effective ending, because the squad has been working towards it for over eleven hours, ensuring that almost everyone will be affected by the disaster.
“Babylon Berlin”, season three, from today on Sky