I’ve recently come across a German television series (on M-Net of all places) called Deutschland 83. I’m intrigued by the fact that M-Net is showing a German language series (in German with English subtitles) on prime time Saturday night television. Well, I’m now 4 episodes in and completely hooked. If you like foreign films and TV series, I highly suggest giving Deutschland 83 a watch.
The story is set in 1983 when tensions between East and West nuclear powers are at a tipping point and the race is on to find out the West’s (USA) nuclear strategy before it’s too late. The lead character is poor, naïve Martin Rauch, a 24-year-old East German border guard. Rauch’s aunt manipulates him to go undercover for the HVA (East German foreign intelligence) in West Germany.
Martin assumes the identity of Mortiz Stamm, and takes the position of aide-de-camp to Major General Edel (the real Moritz Stamm meets an unfortunate end in a train on his way to his new, exciting job). Rauch (whose code name is Kolibri – hummingbird in German) is thrown into a world of intrigue and hidden agendas. However, he does quite well considering his lack of training and seems to escape by the skin of his teeth every time without a hint of suspicion (although I’ve only watched 4 episodes).
The series is a drama essentially, however, there is slight humorous side to it all. Rauch, who comes from the East, is swept up into the lifestyle of the West and all it has to offer. Things like fruit, fast food, Toblerone chocolate and beautiful women are at his fingertips and while he is stealing nuclear secrets he is also having a ball at the same time. Jonas Nay, a German actor plays the character of Rauch, whose boy like features make his part all the more realistic.
What I enjoy about the series is it makes you question who the real ‘bad guys’ are. Although Rauch is risking his life each day to steal nuclear secrets he is doing it so his sick mother will be able to receive a kidney transplant and he will be able to provide his girlfriend Annette with the life she deserves. His aunt does all she can to make sure Rauch stays on track to get the information the HVA requires, leaving Rauch in the dark to her manipulation of his mother and girlfriend.
While undercover, Rauch also comes to know his bosses (General Edel) family quite well. Although General Edel is ‘the enemy’ he is also an honest man trying to keep his family together. His two children are Alex Edel, a son, who shares the same bunk as Rauch in the military, and Yvonne, a daughter. Alex questions the need for war and violence and joins a student peace movement at Bonn University. And Yvonne is the member of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cult in Cologne and just wants to sing soul music and not think about war. I’m only on episode 4 but I feel Rauch’s morals are going to come into question as he is forced to deceive these people time and again.
I love the fact that the cast look like real people. Most of them aren’t particularly good looking with pearly white teeth and airbrushed skin. You really start to realise how ridiculous American TV is. The soundtrack is also nothing short of amazing with classic 80s songs from David Bowie, the Eurhythmics and of course the iconic Nena’s “99 Luftballoons”.
In my opinion, the USA and Russia come off as the real ‘bad guys’. I can’t give away too many plot spoilers but it very quickly comes to light that West and East Germany are merely convenient allies for the two super powers when it comes to destroying each other. Even if that means obliterating the whole of Germany in the process.
The series is part of M-Net’s new Foreign Language Series. Now, on Saturday nights at 21:00 channel 102 (on DSTV) is showcasing the best of foreign language TV. This is a change, as the current TV shows on offer at the moment are nothing short of pure crap. I wonder if they will show the Danish series called Borgen, because THAT is nothing short of TV show brilliance. But that is also a blog post for another day.
All images Copyright © 2016 Deutschland 83.