Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Deutschland 86 - the divided and the deplorable

We’ve just finished ten episodes of the excellent Deutschland 86, the follow up to 2016’s Cold War caper, Deutschland 83. Our hero Martin Rauch starts the series in exile in Angola, teaching German to kids, many of whom are displaced by a proxy war fought by Africans representing manipulative communist and western interests, until he is cornered back into action by his deplorable Aunt Lenora.

There are three great facets to the whole package; the acting, the script and the overall design. Because of the language (it’s in German), and the subtitles, I think I study the faces more and the expressions, the upper body leakage. The writing and story structure expertly manages to weave in real events from 1986; Chernobyl, AIDS, the Berlin nightclub bombing and the US retaliation in the bombing of Libya. But it also catches the style of the era very effectively with Mad Men style graphic titles, a sharp eye for punk fashions, especially in West Berlin, as well as big shoulder pads; all of which is complemented by snappy soundtrack, bookended each episode by the English version of Major Tom by Peter Schilling. Poignantly, just a few days after Mark Hollis died, up popped Talk Talk’s Such a Shame for the pivotal scene of one of the early African adventures.

This tale is darker, I’d say, than three years previous, where it bordered on Carry on Communism at times. The government of the DDR is even crueller and more corrupt than before. There’s certainly no playing it for laughs in how the Stasi treat the Fischer family.

Cynicism abounds and no-one really tells the truth about what they really want and what their purpose is. Everyone’s a bit of a shit, and a bit of dupe at the same time. The ending seems at once both hopeless and desperately sad, the ever presence of a wall that divides families, a people, a country. The hope however is in how their lives play out in Deutschland 89.

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