Netflix’s Babylon Berlin

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By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer

There is a new arrival on Netflix called Babylon Berlin. This show is based on the German book Der Nasse Fisch, which translates to English as The Wet Fish.

This crime drama takes place in 1929 Berlin, the capital of Germany. It follows police commissioner Gereon Rath, played by Volker Bruch, who attempts to unravel a sordid mystery. What Rath is looking for is not initially revealed, which contributes to the mystery.

Commissioner Rath is in Berlin temporarily on specific business, and normally works in Cologne. Thus, there is tension because the other police do not know what he is up to.

As a crime drama, this show has a lot of violence, sex, and drugs. It does not make for a good children’s show.

This addition came to Netflix on 30 January 2018, but the show first aired on 13 October 2017, in Germany. At release, Babylon Berlin is the most expensive television non-English language television show yet made, with a budget of over $40 million.

As a result, the default audio is in German with an English dub available. It is this author’s recommendation not to use the English dub. The voice actors are generic and do not capture the characters’ individuality well.

That is the one disappointing part of this release. Fortunately, the English subtitles are accurate enough to not negatively impact the experience.

The sets look very convincing, considering the show is mostly not filmed in actual Berlin. Modern Berlin looks nothing like it did in 1929, partly because of the destruction caused in the second World War.

Babylon Berlin does a great job at showcasing even more things do not exist anymore. The social conditions of Germany at that time are well integrated into the story and background.

This interwar period is referred as the Weimar Republic for Germany, after the city in which Germany’s new democratic government was centered. This is the point in time at which both communism and fascism—even support for monarchy—were on the rise to compete with this democratic government.

The war of ideology can be seen in the show. There is a story arc dealing with Russian communists of different factions, which Commissioner Rath manages to get tangled up in.

On the other side of the spectrum, the audience witnesses increasing authoritarianism from police. The police crack down on communist rallies and hurt innocent people and are not held accountable.

This show helps a regular person to understand the motivations of people with beliefs that are mostly out fashion today. It shows that extremism does not grow from some black and white movie villains, but from average people.

Babylon Berlin is exciting and well-paced. It does not have an excess of tension buildup or cliff hangers, but things are slow enough to be understood.

There are two seasons of this show, which I strongly recommend watching.

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