Back to the Twenties with Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin, a Netflix series of 16 episodes, all in German, is unusual in that it examines Berlin in the period before the Nazis came to power.

It’s the story of Gereon Rath, a police inspector from Cologne who moves to Berlin to work with the cops there while on a mission from his father, who is an important figure in the Cologne force.

It takes a few episodes before the story is anywhere near understandable, but each episode provides images that hook you, most notably from a German cabaret that sizzles with excitement, champagne, wild dancing and authentic costumes.

The series centers on a hunt for Russian gold, and there is plenty of romance and bloodshed. Babylon Berlin takes a close look at the variety of political parties struggling for supremacy in the Germany of 1929. Much of what occurs is rooted in World War One, where Germany and its economy were decimated. But the country is propped up by foreign loans, and prospers before the Wall Street crash once again casts its economy into chaos.

My favorite character is Liv Lisa Fries, who plays Charlotte (Lotte for short), an inveterate police woman wannabe and part-time prostitute. Her impoverished family life is filled with sqalor detailed in a way we would never see in anything produced in the United States.

Babylon Berlin is reputed to be the most expensive non-English show ever made. Netflix packages its first two seasons into one, and negotiations are underway for additional seasons. There are several books in the series, so we can look forward to more.

Grade: A-

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