Set upon the gorgeous backdrop of 1920s Berlin, Babylon Berlin is a slickly presented, incredible recreation of a city on the verge of radical change. Boasting some stunning cinematography and a genuinely engrossing self-aware script, this 8 episode crime thriller is a joy to watch. The first couple of episodes do take a while to get going, focusing most of its time on world building and recreating Germany in the 1920s, but once the plot unravels Babylon Berlin is great entertainment and arguably one of the finest productions to come out of Germany.
With political and societal tension at an all time high, most of the story follows Colognian commissioner Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch). The backdrop of Russians and Germans on the verge of consuming Berlin in a civil war paves way for a more intimate story involving Gereon uncovering a shady porn ring. Of course, things aren’t quite as simple as they seem and what begins as a mission to track down a simple film reel quickly escalates to include key characters in the show and a plot rife with danger and crime. The story does takes a while to get going but after a couple of slow world-building episodes, the story picks up and consumes the show. Although the story is engrossing, the methodically slow pace won’t be for everyone, especially those after a quicker paced crime thriller but for those who can stick with it, there isn’t anything quite like Babylon Berlin on TV right now.
Told entirely in German and spread across 8 episodes, Babylon Berlin feels like a big budget production. Every scene, every painstakingly recreated backdrop has a real 20s feel to it and the dynamic way you feel Berlin could explode at any moment is captured beautifully. There’s an almost poetic feel to the way Babylon Berlin artistically illustrates its scenes and even during some of the more sombre moments, clever editing and dizzying cinematography make this crime noir a pleasure to watch.
Although most of the story follows Gereon, a good amount of time is spent following spunky Charlotte (Liv Lisa Fries) as she tries to establish her place in the world with the two eventually teaming up late on as the investigation reaches its peak. The acting on the whole is excellent and the intriguing way Babylon Berlin shows the fractured divide between the rich and poor and the Russians and Germans is really well crafted. Everything from the costume design to the vehicles all the way through to the exterior of buildings are impressively recreated to feel like an uneasy Berlin after World War 1.
There really isn’t anything quite like Babylon Berlin on TV right now. This 8 episode crime noir is incredibly endearing and possibly one of the finest shows to come out of Germany. Babylon Berlin does take a few episodes to get into a consistent groove but once the plot unravels, the 8 episodes boast a storyline as impressively presented as its cinematography and world building. This German crime thriller won’t be for everyone, especially with its slow pace and patient build up, but for those who can stick with this one, there’s something special here that’s hard not to like.