Saturday, 23 February 2013

Nacht über Berlin (4 Stars)

This is a love story that takes place in dark times. The literal translation of the film's name is "Night over Berlin". It's a made-for-television film that was first broadcast on German television on February 20th, and can still be watched online at the ARD Mediathek until February 27th. I strongly recommend it to anyone who can speak German. Please watch it soon, the link will be broken after next Wednesday. German subtitles are available.

Dr. Albert Goldmann is a family doctor practising in Berlin in 1932. He is also a member of parliament for the SPD party. He grew up in an orphanage after losing his parents at a young age. Unfortunately for him his parents were Jews, even though he knows nothing of the Jewish culture or religion. Albert is a pacifist who wants to reform the country through parliamentary means, whereas his younger brother Edwin is a Communist who wants to bring about a violent revolution.

By chance Albert meets Henny Dalgow, the owner of a popular Berlin cabaret. Establishments like this were common in pre-war Germany, and a few still exist today, but I doubt anyone from other countries could imagine what they are like, apart from seeing them in films. Song, dance, drinking, satire. At first Albert despises Henny, because the majority of her customers are Nazis and their supporters, but a deep love develops between them. This love continues until the dramatic event of February 27th 1933. The German parliament building, the Reichstag, is burnt down.

Although the film is based on true events, the filming of the Reichstag fire created a problem for the film makers. Even today, 80 days after the event, there is no proof who actually carried out the attack. Adolf Hitler, who had become the leader of a minority government on January 30th, blamed the Communists. The Communists blamed Hitler, saying he had arranged the fire so he could blame others. The film remains neutral by showing that an unknown foreigner committed the act by himself. In my opinion, as an armchair historian, I do believe that the Communists were responsible. However, their act of terrorism backfired. On March 5th there was a new election, and the Nazi party won a huge majority, because the German people thought only Hitler could restore order in the face of the Communist threat.

German made-for-television films can't be compared with their counterparts in America or England. They are often filmed with big budgets and are of the same quality as "normal" films. This is a good example. I hope the film will be made available with English subtitles.

Click here to view the trailer. It should give you an impression of the film even if you can't understand German.

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