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Babylon Berlin is a German neo-noir crime drama television series created, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries and Hendrik Handloegten, based on novels by German author Volker Kutscher. The series takes place in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, starting in 1929. It follows Gereon Rath, a police inspector on assignment from Cologne who is on a secret mission to dismantle an extortion ring, and Charlotte Ritter, a young stenotypist who is aspiring to work as a police inspector.
|Created by||Tom Tykwer|
Achim von Borries
|Written by||Henk Handloegten|
Achim von Borries
|Directed by||Henk Handloegten|
Achim von Borries
Liv Lisa Fries
|Theme music composer||Tom Tykwer|
|Country of origin||Germany|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||16|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Production company(s)||X Filme Creative Pool|
|Original network||Sky 1, Das Erste|
|Original release||13 October 2017|
The series premiered on 13 October 2017 on Sky 1, a German-language entertainment channel broadcast by Sky Deutschland. The first broadcast consisted of a continuous run of sixteen episodes, with the first eight officially known as Season 1, and the second eight known as Season 2. Netflix released the first two seasons in the US, Canada, and Australia. The third season is scheduled to premiere in late 2019 on German television.
Cast and charactersEdit
- Volker Bruch as Inspector Gereon Rath, a combat veteran of the Imperial German Army during World War I and a policeman newly transferred from his home town of Cologne to Berlin, the capital. A Roman Catholic and family friend of Konrad Adenauer (the future West German Chancellor) Inspector Rath struggles with PTSD linked to his war experiences and survivor's guilt over the loss of his brother, Anno Rath, who is still listed as missing in action. Secretly, Rath self-medicates by taking morphine. He also struggles to reconcile his faith with his illicit affair with Helga, Anno's wife.
- Liv Lisa Fries as Charlotte Ritter, a flapper from the slums of Wedding and an occasional prostitute at the Moka Efti cabaret, who works as a police clerk and dreams of becoming the first female homicide detective in the history of the Berlin Police.
- Peter Kurth as Detective Chief Inspector Bruno Wolter, a Berlin Police investigator whose affability masks unseemly tendencies. On one hand, Wolter shows great kindness to Charlotte by paying funeral expenses and comforting her when her mother dies; on the other, he threatens to dispel her from the police in exchange for sexual favors. He becomes the primary antagonist in Series Two.
- Matthias Brandt as Councillor August Benda, a Jewish Social Democrat and the head of the Berlin Political Police. A tenacious investigator and true believer in the Weimar Republic, Benda is equally loathed by Monarchists, Communists, and National Socialists. For years, the Councillor has been investigating a secret military buildup which defies the Treaty of Versailles. He believes that unless this shadow army, "The Black Reichswehr", can be stopped, they will overthrow the Republic and plunge Europe into another World War.
- Leonie Benesch as Greta Overbeck, a down-on-her-luck childhood friend of Charlotte Ritter initially recuperating from a recent Cesarean. Self-conscious of her scar, she turns down Charlotter's offer to join her working at Moka Efti. Instead, Charlotte uses her police connections to find Greta a job as domestic servant to Councillor Benda and his family. After a disastrous romance in Series Two, Greta reluctantly gets entwined in an assassination scheme.
- Denis Burgazliev as Col. Trochin, a Soviet diplomat and official of Joseph Stalin's secret police. Under orders from his superiors, Trochin routinely masterminds the abduction, torture, and murder of both real and imagined anti-Stalinists among Berlin's Russian community. With help from Charlotte Ritter, Inspector Gereon Rath conclusively ties Trochin and the Soviet Embassy staff to the machine gun slayings of fifteen Trotskyists found in a mass grave in the forest outside Berlin and to the abduction, torture, and murder of a sixteenth Trotskyist found floating in a Berlin canal. Using this evidence, Trochin's superior, the Ambassador himself, is blackmailed by Councillor Benda: although Trochin and his staff have diplomatic immunity from German prosecution, the Ambassador knows that Stalin will have him tortured and shot for having been caught. Therefore, the Ambassador has Trochin break into his own offices by night, steals evidence of Soviet collusion with "The Black Reichswehr", and gives the evidence to Rath and Benda. They arrange to release Trochin and his men into Soviet custody.
- Severija Janušauskaitė as Countess Svetlana Sorokina / Nikoros, a White Russian émigré, crossdressing singer at the Moka Efti cabaret, and spy for the Soviet secret police. The Countess is the secret lover of both Trotskyist leader Alexei Kardakov and right-wing industrialist Alfred Nyssen.
- Ivan Shvedoff as Alexei Kardakov, an anti-Stalinist Russian refugee and the leader of a Trotskyist cell in Berlin.
- Lars Eidinger as Alfred Nyssen, an arms manufacturer with links to Reichswehr and Freikorps officers plotting to overthrow the Republic and restore Kaiser Wilhelm II to the German throne. As expressed in conversation with Councillor Benda, Nyssen believes that the Republic is an aberration and that the absence of the monarchy is a disgrace to Germany. Benda says that Nyssen and his comrades are both Monarchists and anti-Semites who detest the ruling Social Democratic Party of Germany.
- Mišel Matičević as Edgar "The Armenian", the impeccably dressed owner of the Moka Efti cabaret, and the leader of organized crime in Berlin. A ruthless but deeply principled gangster, "The Armenian" claims to "own the police" and routinely uses intimidation and blackmail to get what he wants. For his own reasons, "The Armenian" acts as a secret protector to Inspector Gereon Rath.
- Ernst Stötzner as Major General Kurt Seegers, a member of the Reichswehr's General Staff and DCI Bruno Wolter's commanding officer during the Great War. Gen. Seegers has secretly been building a large and modern military for Germany through the use of secret military bases and armaments factories in the Soviet Union. Although Seegers' violations of the Treaty of Versailles are known and approved of by German President Paul von Hindenburg and "half the Reichstag", he routinely orders the assassination of journalists and investigators who get too close to his secret activities. General Seegers is the mastermind of a planned coup d'etat to overthrow the Republic, arrest all politicians expected to oppose its abolition, and to restore Kaiser Wilhelm II to the German throne.
- Hannah Herzsprung as Helga Rath, Inspector Gereon Rath's secret lover of more than ten years and the wife of his brother, who has been missing since the First World War.
- Anton von Lucke as Stephan Jänicke, a young detective in the Berlin Police who has been assigned by Councillor Benda to investigate DCI Bruno Wolter for ties to "The Black Reichswehr."
The series was co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Hendrik Handloegten, and Achim von Borries, who also wrote the scripts. German public broadcaster ARD and pay TV channel Sky co-produced the series, a first time collaboration in German television. As part of the arrangement, Sky broadcast the series first, and ARD started broadcasts by free-to-air television on 30 September 2018. Netflix purchased rights for the United States and Canada, where the series is available also in English dubbing and with subtitles.
The series is described as the most expensive television drama series in Germany, with a budget of €40 million that increased to €55 million due to reshoots.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the show's co-creator, Tom Tykwer, spoke about the era:
“At the time people did not realize how absolutely unstable this new construction of society which the Weimar Republic represented was. It interested us because the fragility of democracy has been put to the test quite profoundly in recent years... By 1929, new opportunities were arising. Women had more possibilities to take part in society, especially in the labor market as Berlin became crowded with new thinking, new art, theater, music and journalistic writing.” Nonetheless, Tykwer insisted that he and his co-directors were determined not to idealize the Weimar Republic. “People tend to forget that it was also a very rough era in German history. There was a lot of poverty, and people who had survived the war were suffering from a great deal of trauma.”
In the first season, Communists and especially Trotskyists play a prominent role. The show is depicting of what became known as Blutmai, the violence between the Communist demonstrators and members of the Berlin Police in early May 1929, and extra-legal paramilitary formations promoted by the German army, known as the Black Reichswehr. Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler, on the other hand, is only mentioned in passing during the first two seasons of Babylon Berlin.
The Babelsberg Studio created an addition to its Metropolitan Backlot for the filming of the series and for future productions, in form of a large permanent standing set, lauded by the company as one of the largest in Europe. The set includes representations of various neighborhoods of Berlin, including the prevailing economic classes, and also includes the large exterior of the night club Moka Efti. In addition, the series was filmed throughout Berlin and at other locations in Germany. Numerous scenes were filmed on Alexanderplatz in front of the historic Alexanderhaus [de]. The police headquarters, once located directly behind it, and other surrounding buildings, were destroyed in WWII, but were recreated with computer simulations. The Rotes Rathaus (Berlin City Hall) was used for most closeup scenes involving the exterior of the police headquarters, because their red brick appearance and architectural style are very similar. Interiors of the police headquarters lobby were filmed at the Rathaus Schöneberg, including scenes with its paternoster elevator, while the elegant Ratskeller restaurant in the same building was used as the nearby cafe Aschinger in multiple scenes. Interior scenes in the Moka Efti were filmed at the Delphi Cinema in Berlin-Weissensee. A lengthy suspense sequence set during a performance of The Threepenny Opera, was filmed at the historic Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, where the play actually ran at the time. Other scenes were filmed on Museum Island and in the Hermannplatz U-Bahn station in Berlin, and the Church of the Redeemer on the Havel river in Potsdam. The scenes set on the estate of the Nyssen family were filmed at Schloss Drachenburg, a castle in the Rhineland. Scenes involving a steam train were filmed at the Bavarian Railway Museum near Nördlingen.
Side entrance of the Berlin City Hall, used as Police Headquarters
The lobby of the Rathaus Schöneberg, used as the lobby of Police Headquarters
Former silent movie cinema Delphi in Berlin-Weissensee, used as the Moka Efti nightclub
In addition to period music, "Dance Away", from the 1979 album Manifesto by Roxy Music, plays occasionally in the background (adapted to the style of the period) and also included is an adaptation of "These Foolish Things" and, in the Season Two finale, a Russian version of "Gloomy Sunday". Singer Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music appears toward the end of the first series as a cabaret singer. In the first double episode of the first series, the Lithuanian actress Severija Janušauskaitė as Swetlana Sorokina, crossdressing as the male singer Nikoros, performs the main theme of the series, "Zu Asche, Zu Staub" in the Moka Efti cabaret. This song was later released under the pseudonym "Severija".
Babylon Berlin premiered in Germany on 13 October 2017 (Sky 1) and in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland on Sunday 5 November 2017 (Sky Atlantic). The series debuted in Australia, Canada, and the United States on 30 January 2018 (Netflix). Broadcasting on the German TV channel Das Erste started Sunday 30 September 2018. The Swedish broadcast began on 19 June 2019 on SVT.
The first and second seasons, of eight episodes each, were written as one complete story (covering the first novel of the Kutscher book series) and filmed as one continuous production. They premiered as one unbroken block, numbered 1-16, and have been broadcast throughout the world as one block. In addition, all 16 episodes of both seasons were made available simultaneously on Netflix. 
The second block of 12 episodes, due to air in late 2019, are therefore officially known as Season 3.
Season 1 (2017)Edit
|No.||Title||Original release date|
|1||"Episode 1"||13 October 2017|
|In April 1929, a train bound for Berlin has to make a stop near Novorzhev due to a burning tree lying on the rails. The engine driver and a train worker get ambushed by several armed men who speak Russian. The men connect an additional car to the train, two Russians replace the Germans who get killed via headshots. Meanwhile, Gereon Rath, a morphine addict and World War I veteran who works as an inspector in Cologne gets transferred to Berlin. He and his new partner Bruno Wolter visit a photographic studio which is actually a pornographic film studio. While they arrest Johann König, the owner, another man tries to flee and shoots at Gereon, but gets subdued by Bruno. Bruno lets him go since the man is Franz Krajewski, one of his informants. He fought in World War I and got fired from his job as a policeman because he overreacted in a shoot-out due to his PTSD. Franz goes to a therapist and tells him that the police arrested König and that they are looking for "the film". The therapist later meets with a mysterious man, only referred to as "The Armenian". The Armenian says he will take care of the film. At the police station, Gereon bumps into Charlotte Ritter after getting out of a Paternoster. She works as an archivist at the homicide division in order to provide for her family who live under pitiable conditions. She and Gereon part ways after gathering up their respective files they had dropped. Two Trotskyists named Kardakow and Swetlana get a telegram at a printery telling them the train will arrive soon.|
|2||"Episode 2"||13 October 2017|
|Gereon interrogates Johann König who had been tortured by a mysterious man before the interrogation. He gets hold of the inspector's gun and wants to shoot Gereon, but after Gereon convinces him that his situation is hopeless, Johann commits suicide instead. This triggers Gereons PTSD, so he rushes to a nearby bathroom to take some morphine, but is unable to do so because of his heavy trembling. Charlotte, who is in the neighboring stall, finds him and helps him take his drugs. After this incident, Gereon phones with his father who is disappointed that the film has not been found yet and urges his son to destroy it should it reappear. Gereon and Bruno get called into the office of August Benda, head of the police, to explain why König was injured after Bruno's interrogation, but neither of them tell the truth. Benda has a private conversation with Gereon and asks him why he got transferred. Gereon admits that his friend, the mayor of Cologne, was blackmailed with a film that is said to be in Berlin. He asked Gereon to find it before the upcoming elections. Gereon finds Krajewski who can't tell him anything about the film. At night, Charlotte visits the Moka Efti, a popular variety theater. She listens to a singer called Nikoros, who is actually Swetlana in disguise. Charlotte follows one of the patrons to the club's basement which houses a brothel where she works as a prostitute. Swetlana's fellow Trotskyists at the printery get killed by the same men who ambushed the train, but they miss Kardakow who was hiding in the latrine.|
|3||"Episode 3"||20 October 2017|
|The Russian train arrives in Berlin. Swetlana appears at the railway and tells the driver that the last car will be redirected to Paris instead of Istanbul as originally planned. When the driver gets suspicious, Swetlana threatens him with a gun, but gets stopped by German rail workers and arrested. The driver goes to Kardkow's pension, which happens to now be Gereon’s. The next day, Benda says during a speech that communist associations have planned to demonstrate on 1 May even though those kind of rallies have been banned in Berlin. When Gereon refuses to tell Bruno anything about his conversation with Benda, Bruno gets angry and arranges that the two of them will oversee the demonstrations together. Gereon returns to his hotel where he finds the landlady, Elisabeth Behnke, gagged. He and the Russian engine driver get into a fistfight and Gereon is able to throw him over a balcony. When the driver then gets kidnapped on the street, Gereon tries to intervene, but fails to save him. The driver gets taken to a warehouse where he is questioned by Trochin, the Soviet ambassador. The driver admits that the train is loaded with a great amount of gold bars.|
|4||"Episode 4"||20 October 2017|
|Gereon and Bruno examine apartments of alleged communists during demonstrations, but don't find any incriminating evidence. As they leave, a large convoy of policemen begins randomly firing at the crowds which horrifies Gereon. He and Bruno flee into a nearby house where two civilian women standing on a balcony are hit by bullets and seriously injured. Gereon is able to find a female doctor who treats poor people and is a member of the KPD. Later, Gereon and Charlotte, who now writes his reports, go to the morgue to examine the dead body of the Russian engine driver. Charlotte points out that the victim's bruises are uneven and he therefore probably didn't die from natural circumstances. Gereon recognized him as the man who had broken into his apartment.|
|5||"Episode 5"||27 October 2017|
|6||"Episode 6"||27 October 2017|
|7||"Episode 7"||3 November 2017|
|8||"Episode 8"||3 November 2017|
Season 2 (2017)Edit
The second-season episodes were written and directed by Henk Handloegten, Achim von Borries, and Tom Tykwer.
|No.||Title||Original release date|
|1||"Episode 9"||10 November 2017|
|2||"Episode 10"||10 November 2017|
|3||"Episode 11"||17 November 2017|
|4||"Episode 12"||17 November 2017|
|5||"Episode 13"||24 November 2017|
|6||"Episode 14"||24 November 2017|
|7||"Episode 15"||1 December 2017|
|8||"Episode 16"||1 December 2017|
Following launch of the first season, the series received almost universal critical acclaim with an average IMDb rating of 8.5 stars and a Rotten Tomatoes critics approval consensus of 100%, summarising that "Babylon Berlin's humor and humanity pair nicely with its hypnotic visuals, resulting in a show that dazzles within its oversaturated genre".
Christian Buss, cultural critic of Der Spiegel, praised the series for staying true to the tradition of "typically German angst cinema", in the vein of 1920s silent movies such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis or Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. "It could be that Babylon Berlin is the first big German TV production since Das Boot which enjoys really relevant success abroad. Let's not be shy to say it: we [Germans] are big again – as the world champions of angst."
German historian Thomas Weber commented in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on 28 January 2018, "From a historical perspective, the series is very acute in showing how Weimar Democracy was under attack both from the Communist Left, as well as by traditional Conservatives, in a kind of unholy alliance." In the same interview, Babylon Berlin co-writer Henk Handloegten commented, "One of the main reasons to make Babylon Berlin was to show how all these Nazis did not just fall from the sky. They were human beings who reacted to German society’s changes and made their decisions accordingly."
The series itself received several awards in 2018. These included a Bambi in the category Beste Serie des Jahres (Best series of the year), four awards at the Deutscher Fernsehpreis (Best dramatical series, best cinematography (for Frank Griebe, Bernd Fischer and Philip Haberlandt), best musical score (for Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer) and best production design (for Pierre-Yves Gayraud and Uli Hanisch), a special Bavarian TV Award and a Romy for TV event of the year. In the same year, everyone majorly involved with the production of the series won a Grimme-Preis, including Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, the three directors and several members of the technical team. Bruch also won a Goldene Kamera in the category Best German actor for his portrayal of Gereon Rath.
The series' opening title sequence, created by German designer Saskia Marka and featuring a theme composed by Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer, was named the best title sequence of 2018 by industry website Art of the Title.
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- Berghausen, Nadine (February 2019). "A fascination with the past". goethe.de. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
- Grey, Tobias (28 January 2018). "A Hit Drama in Germany, Babylon Berlin Crosses the Atlantic". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
- "Wladek Flakin: "Babylon Berlin" gets real". Exberliner. 1 November 2017.
- "Babylon Berlin: Germany on the Brink". The Weekly Standard. 25 May 2018.
- "A Hit Drama in Germany, 'Babylon Berlin' Crosses the Atlantic". The Wall Street Journal. 28 January 2018.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 June 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Metropolitan Backlot - Studio Babelsberg AG". www.studiobabelsberg.com. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- "Moka Efti: does it exist?". Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- "Hungry? Have a quick bite at Aschinger's!". Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- c:Category:Kino Delphi (Berlin-Weißensee)[circular reference]
- Connolly, Kate (29 October 2017). "Babylon Berlin: lavish German crime drama tipped to be global hit". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- Antrim, Taylor (30 January 2018). "Your New Winter TV Binge Is Here: Babylon Berlin". vogue.com. Vogue. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
- Sagatz, Kurt (17 November 2017). "ARD verteidigt Kooperation mit Sky bei Babylon Berlin". tagesspiegel.de (in German). Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
- Goodfellow2017-04-03T08:58:00+01:00, Melanie. "Tom Tykwer: 'Babylon Berlin' could run for another decade". Screen. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- "Die Folgen zur Sendung - Babylon Berlin - ARD - Das Erste". www.daserste.de. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- Hawkins, Kayla. "The Creators Of Your New Netflix Crime Obsession Already Have SO Much More Planned". Bustle. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- "How the 'Babylon Berlin' Team Broke the Rules to Make the World's Biggest Foreign-Language Series". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- "Babylon Berlin". Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via www.imdb.com.
- "Babylon Berlin". Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via www.rottentomatoes.com.
- Ströbele, Carolin (29 September 2017). "Die bebende Stadt" (in German). Zeit Online. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
Die Handlung ist hoch dynamisch erzählt und vereint sex, crime and history auf angenehm unaufdringliche Weise.
- "Goldenes Bambi lässt Hollywood strahlen". B.Z. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "Preisträger 2018 › Deutscher Fernsehpreis 2019". www.deutscher-fernsehpreis.de (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Krei, Alexander. "Das sind die Gewinner des Bayerischen Fernsehpreises 2018". DWDL.de (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Silber, Christoph. "ROMY-Sonderpreise: Schweighöfer, "Babylon", Ninjas & Universum". Kurier (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "Babylon Berlin (ARD Degeto/Sky)". grimme-preis.de (in German). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
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- "Top 10 Title Sequences of 2018". Art of the Title. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
- Official Site, in German and English
- Babylon Berlin on IMDb
- official site of the Metropolitan Backlot, primary location for the show
- "Babylon Berlin – Our wild years" (An interview with Volker Kutscher) at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung website
- "Dancing on the Volcano" at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung website
- "Record budget for Babylon Berlin" at Spiegel Online website
- "Top event for broadcast, telecoms, media and entertainment industries" at Medien Business website
- "Filming by helicopter on 1 November 2016 for the Babylon Berlin crime series" at Woernitz Franken's website