tue 27/02/2024

DVD: Babylon Berlin, Season Four | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Babylon Berlin, Season Four

DVD: Babylon Berlin, Season Four

Golden threads through a labyrinth of Weimar Republic corruption

Gideon Rath (Volker Bruch) seems caught in the act as a Nazi

It’s coming up for two years since some of us watched the first three seasons of what’s increasingly coming to seem like television’s greatest dramatic triumph. Babylon Berlin. So we might be excused for being in a bit of brainwhirl when it comes to the multiple plotlines sown early on in Season Four.

It starts on the eve of 1931, and the components include desperate street children, suppression of free press, the increasingly deluded exploits of a mad industrialist family, fratricidal urges, a vicious secret court, bent coppers, gangsters, the theft of a valuable jewel, connecting high society with the Jewish community in Berlin – and Nazis, very much in the forefront of Episode One, whereas you didn’t even see a swastika until the end of Season Two. Can our hero, policeman Gideon Rath, really be among their number? Is the woman with whom he ought to be together, Charlotte Ritter, right to reject him even as a friend and colleague?Lars Eidinger in Babylon BerlinNo spoilers, but suffice it to say that Volker Bruch and Liv Lisa Fries are as various and compelling as before, offering a golden thread through the labyrinth before the elements are pulled together. Lars Eidinger’s magnificently neurotic steel-empire heir Alfred Nyssen (pictured above), progressing from help in re-arming Germany to mad space projects, has some spectacular scenes and the Gothic hatred between his wife (played by Hannah Herzsprung) and flinty-awful mother (Marie-Anne Fliegel) offers an odd vein of edgy wit. A different, more gentle kind is reinstated in the half-articulated tenderness between investigative reporter Katelbach (Karl Markovics), now in deep trouble, and his kind-hearted landlady Elisabeth Benke (Fritzi Haberland).

No season would be complete without song and dance; Max Raabe delivers the hit number we see Charlotte buying in a record shop in the first episode and dancing to near the end, the earwormy “Ein Tag wie Gold” (“A Day Like Gold”), and a marathon dance competition for women in the ubiquitous Moka Efti nightclub gets bound into one of the more ominous themes (Fries pictured below). Having watched the documentary on the making of Babylon Berlin in a previous instalment, I’m on the lookout for the re-dressing of the Babelsberg studio streets, but there are plenty of other striking locations within Berlin proper. Musical and choreographic values are as high here as before. Live Lise Fries in Babylon BerlinThe bigger framing situation, which retreats during some of the middle episodes, shows vicious factions within the Nazi party. As is the habit of Tom Tykwer‘s and Achim von Borries's drama, a real historical personage becomes central – in this case the fearsome Walter Stennes (Hanno Kofler), leader of the SA – and inevitably the final denouement concerns a foregone conclusion to a faction opposed to Hitler. But in a way the climaxes of the two previous episodes are even more theatrical. Fries has her finest hour yet in carrying an unlikely heroism in the court room of the hideous White Hand movement, and Bruch’s Gideon is a helpless onlooker as gangster groups assemble for an unlikely gathering at police headquarters which of course goes horribly wrong.

Having been under the impression that this was to be the last series, I was left wondering about several hanging strands at the end – but fortunately, no, there are plans for more. The drama, unlike the books on which it is based, will definitely stop at 1933, but that gives us at least a couple more seasons of what I still reckon is the best thing, along with The West Wing, TV has ever hosted.

The framing situation, which retreats during some of the middle episodes, shows vicious factions within the Nazi party

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Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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How can one watch Season 4 in the US?

Presumably by buying this DVD, unless it's restrictive region-wise. There are other alternatives, but you can check out the usual suspects.

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