Walter Presents: Deutschland ’83

Since the beginning of this year, Channel 4 have started airing programmes selected by a film buff called Walter (click the link to find out more about him). These programmes are all foreign dramas, ranging from a supposedly innocent woman being Locked Up in a private prison in Spain; a group of Outlaws; and a group of people forming a Resistance in Nazi Germany.

8080MGNu

So far, I have watched three of the many dramas Walter has selected for Channel 4, and since they have all proved better than much of what is on British and American television, I have decided I’m going to try and watch every series he presents. Therefore, over the course of the next few months/year/however long it takes me to get over my procrastination, I’ll be writing short posts on each show I’m watching — most likely after I have finished the series.

A bit of background: I have always loved foreign cinema, be it Spanish fairytales like Pan’s Labyrinth or Italian Neo-Realists like Bicycle Thieves, but I’ve never really watched or had an interest for foreign dramas. My first introduction to the world was probably through the Nordic-Noir adaptation of The Missing by the BBC, until one night I saw a trailer for Walter Presents and was introduced to a new world of television. The first introduction to this world was through Deutschland ’83, which has one of my favourite opening titles sequence ever, and I would say this is the best way to ‘get into’ the free foreign dramas Walter has picked on All 4, mainly due to the quality of the show. 

The German thriller set in 1983 presents a divided Germany through the political and social iconography of the Berlin Wall. Audiences see this divided Germany through the eyes of Jonas Nay’s character Martin, a young officer who wants to serve his country.  As the show progresses, we see that it is not simply Germany that is divided between the East and the West, but the characters too. Nay is divided between doing what he believes is right versus what others believe is right; his girlfriend back at the East is divided between two sets of important secrets; his mother by her health and honesty; along with Nay’s roommate, Alex Edel (played by Ludwig Trepte) divided between what his father wants him to be against who he really is.

In fact, there is not one moment in the show where the Berlin wall is shown on camera as a major plot point or a character in itself (considering the effects the wall had, it certainly would have been very easily to make the Berlin wall a character within the film, much like Gothic directors use houses as characters), apart from some brief library-archived shots on television screens. Instead, Deutschland‘s directors have to create the split through dress codes, iconography and mise-en-scene, and they certainly execute it well:

Annett-Schneider-Deutschland-83-Season-1-Profile-4-700x384

"Deutschland!"

L to R, Jonas Nay and Carina Wiese – in the SundanceTV original series “Deutschland 83” – Photo Credit: Laura Deschner

tumblr_nsnbimYEYe1txocfto7_500.gif

deutschland-83-episode-4-things-go-south-in-northern-wedding-805153

Note how Annett Schneider (Sonja Gerhardt) and Martin’s mother (Carina N. Wiese) are often shown outside in nature, and usually wearing free flowing, comfortable clothes. To immediately juxtapose this we have both Martin’s rigid uniform as well as his aunt’s neat, blocky dress code, which later on corresponds to her surroundings in the West. From looking at the smaller aspects of Deutschland ’83 – by looking beyond its impressive narrative and characters – you will be able to find micro-elements like the characters’ dress codes corresponding to certain surroundings, and realise how much detail the creators of this programme have put in.

Sick, Sad World

Life-long experienced graphic designer or 17 year old teen with no Photoshop installed on her computer? The world may never know...

Life-long experienced graphic designer or 17 year old teen with no Photoshop installed on her computer? The world may never know…

Teenagers are usually represented as dumb, ignorant and self-obsessed. While this is true for some teenagers (just like it’s true for some adults), it’s a deeply disconnected representation. For a long time we had no one to relate to, no one to represent us and not make fun of us.

And then along came Daria. Daria is a TV show about a 17 year old girl who is disconnected from the peers that surround her. She hates their superficiality, obsession for social groups and shallow-ness. She’s probably one of the most quotable teenagers to have ever come out from this world. Here are some for your inner angsty-ness and general distaste for the world:

enhanced-buzz-17289-1360773456-3

If you want to know more cool facts and analysis that I am not educated enough to give yet, then watch the video of NostalgiaChick below — it’s like watching Daria give a review of her life:

After Daria, there wasn’t really a TV show that respected teenagers and their hormones and vulnerability mixed with that odd feeling of being aware of your mortality yet having random bursts of “I AM IMMORTAL!!” for no particular reason. This generated a collection of think pieces and articles reminiscing over The Show That Knew Teenz, and also a generation of new teenagers (me being one of them) that magically stumbled upon this show that no one had ever told you about before, making it feel special and close to your heart because you discovered this and no one else in the whole wide world knew about it…kind of. My generation of people (holy crap I sound so egotistical) has been left with next to no mainstream films/TV shows/novels that encompass the feeling of being a teenager, or showed a teenager in an actual fucking realistic light rather than shoving in our faces how unhappy and blind sighted we should be because we’re not all rich, privileged and pretty. We’re not allowed to watch shows to look for ourselves anymore, at least not in the ‘teen genre’, instead we’re only allowed to watch to escape because our lives and what we have to say is so obviously unimportant it doesn’t deserve any attention.

However, thanks to some god-like figure there is some hope left. Once in a while the men that control what everyone in Hollywood thinks, feels and talks about decide to not act like total capitalist assholes and actually take a risk and let us have something with depth. Of course, most of the time it isn’t due to these men, but rather the people behind the shows and films that have worked so hard for them to be commissioned/sold/shown, and for some odd reason teenagers like it when they can relate to characters and have voices representing us that we like? Like, why would we ever want that? So, the men in suits with lots of excess money in their hands see they’re going to make money out of this and HOORAH! A TV show/film that doesn’t make you lose hope with the world is born. What a beautiful life.

Below are the fictional Queens of Youth from TV shows and films that I believe every girl should watch before she reaches 18 (I recommend playing godly, angelic music for this section of the post) (also these are limited only to the films and shows I’ve watched, so if you have any other recommendations/personal favourites the please comment them below!!) (enough parenthesis let’s go):

Tina

BE STILL MY BEATING HEART. Tina is my personal hero and queen and she just encapsulated everything I am, want to be and probably will be. From her love of butts to her ability to literally not care what people think (she doesn’t even think what people think — she just does it) Tina Belcher will always have my <3.

veronica

Oh, Veronica. The amount of times I have watched Heathers. The amount of times I have dreamt of having a relationship like your’s and J.D.’s (before the killing/suicide part). I love Veronica Sawyer because she is gutsy, admits to her flaws and her general message is to just be nice. Michael Lehmann and Daniel Waters have my wholehearted respect for making this film, as it was such a big move, and, despite the dark comedy and themes, focus is still placed on the angst of being a teenager, and taking seriously. “Dear diary, my teen angst bullshit now has a body count” will forever be my favourite quote.

lyd

Winona Ryder appreciation part 2. Tim Burton never presents Lydia Deetz’s angst and sadness as being overemotional or stupid. Instead, like the others on this list, importance is placed on these feelings and this film captures perfectly the sadness felt in youth.

tumblr_mbmcn1RveN1qdrqb5o1_500

I feel liked Lisa is often overlooked since she’s on the longest running American sit-com and animation, but she is such a good character. She is multi-faceted, cares about boys, but also her education, and often exposes gender-roles, misogyny and prejudice.

The point with this is that it’s important for us teenz to have characters we can relate and look up to, and often the biggest mistake with producers and the Men With Money isn’t them making clichéd characters (in fact that’s perfectly fine, since most characters are clichés, but are played and written well so it doesn’t mock them — see The Mindy Project), but rather them not taking a teenager’s emotions and angst and hormones seriously. We need these characters in our lives, because at times, youth does feel unbearable — and who are we going to run to when it feels as though we have no one else?