I had posted the following elsewhere and included some new comments at the end. But I wanted to start a proper thread about this Netflix Original series:
I’m watching a series right now that is set in 1926 Berlin (or at least it picks up in that year): Babylon Berlin. I’m ten episodes in the 16-episode first season (the only season that is available on Netflix at the moment). Mr. Kung should watch this if he gets a chance. There’s a lot of interesting insights into German life at the waning moments of the Weimar Republic and just before the economic crash of 1929. (I assume this is the year it happens in Germany. We haven’t quite caught up with that event yet.)
Here we see the Stalinists battling the Trotskyites. We see the decadence of Berlin night clubs. We see old (and young) military-minded men longing to erase the sting of The Great War. We see people living bad and brutal lives in poverty. We see the disruption caused by foreigners. (Perhaps more than a few Russians and Slavs, all who seem atuned to marching the streets for "free stuff".)
And I’ll be frank. I think this series does, for those attuned to thinking, give one an insight as to why Nazism was so appealing. It’s not that democracy was weak, per se, although I assume the poor handling of the Communist insurgency certainly made the republica look week. I just get the general sense that the Germans in the 1920’s were not ready to become brainless Communists. They still had a belief in themselves, battered though it was by the loss in The Great War.
We see (as in our own nation today) the chipping away at German families, at their honor, and at just a shared sense of decency (especially the German work ethic). And then when the crash comes, a chipping away at traditional German industriousness. Anyone promising to bash the heads of the Communists and to restore German honor (and economic vibrancy) would have had a large following.
That anti-semitism got wrapped up in Nazism is a shame, although it’s not that Jews were blameless. There were patriotic Jews who had fought in The Great War and considered themselves as German as anyone else, despite their last name. And yet, like now, there was an elite who were chipping away at the Christian/Western foundations, and self-consciously so.
This series centers around the drug-addicted (a real sign of the Zeitgeist) Vice Detective Gereon Rath who is on special assignment from Köln. (I won’t tell you what that assignment is, but it definitely has something to do with vice). And Rath has no problem finding vice in Berlin.
I think Steve would appreciate this series but I’m reticent to give this series an outright thumbs-up. It’s a little creepy, a little pornographic, and the plot is somewhat slow to develop. But eventually everyone has made some side deal to spy on someone else.
Rath is, by the standards of the day, an honest and hard-working detective, as is his partner, Bruno Wolter. Charlotte Ritter is the necessary “I am woman, hear me roar” female protagonist. She lives with her poor extended (and quite degraded) family getting jobs where she can (including a little vice now and then). She takes up some temporary work at the police station which mushrooms into prospects for something more. Overall, she is a good character and, despite the fact that she is a demographic insertion, works well in this series so far.
But this series gives you some insights to what the unraveling of a society can mean and what it can be caused by. But note there is no overt preaching going on. But the series does seem to be a realistic look at that time period. And knowing what comes after, you can see the significance of the events as they play out.
Additional: One thing that bugs me about this series is that the Communists are being made to look like victims. Granted, I don’t know that the events portrayed aren’t true. But I suspect it’s a selected part of the story.
Berlin has verboten public gatherings by Communists. (Details are sketchy about the exact law in place.) A gathering is planned by the Communists and the police, including a couple members of vice (including our main guy, Gereon Rath), are sent to a particular district to do a house-to-house search for illegal guns.
While doing the search, a police armored car rolls down the street and begins firing indiscriminately upon passersby and the houses to each side of the street. Rath and his partner happen to be inside one house on the second floor. Two women go out to the balcony behind the raising of a large red communist banner. Bullets spray everywhere and the two are killed. This sets up a protracted story arc of the wronged Communists. (I wouldn't have shot them down in cold blood, but I certainly would have had to think about it for a moment first.)
Communists are shown as being passive and peaceful. I don’t know whether they will expend out from this narrative. It’s hard to know whether the film producers mean this to be a complimentary portrayal of the Communists, but many of them do come off as overly radical and a bit subversive and creepy. However, that is how a typical Leftist crowd in America appears to me, so this might be the producers thinking this is a positive portrayal of these bastards. (I do hate Communists of all types, I must say.)