Six part miniseries Charité is an interesting and often fascinating glimpse into the world of revolutionary medicinal research at the end of the 19th Century. With romance and religious drama entwined with the main plot line, Charité’s loosely based true story explores societal pressure facing nurses, the divide between men and women as well as the attitude toward healthcare in this crucial time in history. Although some may find these themes a little overpowering and the pace a tad too slow, Charité’s familiar medical drama set up mixed with biographical accounts of real scientists and physicians from the time manage to sustain attention and interest right through to its satisfying conclusion.
The story, set in the prestigious German hospital known as the Charité, splits the focus between three predominant characters. After being treated for appendicitis and forced to work as a nurse to pay off her debts, Ida Lenze (Alicia von Rittberg) becomes the focal point for much of the romance during the six episodes. Her dreams of becoming a scientist are ridiculed by almost every man in the hospital and her defiance in the face of adversity certainly helps with building her up as a spunky, likeable character rather than just an archetype for the romance. Dr Koch’s (Justus von Dohnányi) breakthrough cure for tuberculosis sees him inundated with attention from various prestigious sources and he struggles to balance his work with his family life. Rounding out the trio of characters is Emil Behring (Matthias Koeberlin) whose potential cure for diphtheria gives extra weight to the great work done inside the laboratory at the hospital. All of these characters work well together and their stories are well written and interesting although some may find the religious and romantic connotations a little too strongly explored.
Charité’s clever use of mixing fact with fiction is partly the reason this historical drama makes for such an endearing watch. Everything from the costume design to the dialogue and the set design of the hospital all ring true to life in that era. At times it’s pulled off so well the series plays out closer to a biographical drama than historical fiction. There is a good burst of drama here too, especially late on as the episodes build to the final episode although a lot of the issues may feel alienating, especially given the issues facing people in the 19th Century. Still, Charité does a good job of keeping things relatable through the basic but well written journeys for each of the main characters.
With solid acting, a well paced story and a good blend of fact with fiction, Charité is an impressive German medical drama. The clever use of real physicians during this time as well as realistic set and costume design make this a compelling series and difficult to tell what’s been superficially placed and what’s actually based on a true story, much to the credit of the show’s creators. Each of the three characters that share the limelight have enough characterisation and story to allow their uplifting, empowering journeys to remain the focal point of this series. With six episodes at a little under 50 minutes each, Charité is a rather short series but the excellent character work and solid storytelling more than make up for its short length.