Stylish Cold War spy drama Deutschland ’83, a co-production between Germany and the USA, aired in the UK in 2016, and became a runaway hit. We’ve recently been watching the follow-up series, set in 1986, and imaginatively called Deutschland ’86. Deutschland ’89, set in the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, has just come out, and I dare say we’ll get to it at some point.
In the five years since we watched Deutschland ’83 I’d unfortunately forgotten everything about the plot, as well as all the names, motivations and back stories of every single character. This happens a lot. I can reread a book from a few years ago, and it might as well be new to me. I can watch films and only towards the end remember that, yes, I’ve seen it already. Indeed, one of the reasons for writing this blog is so I can remember what I’ve done with my spare time for past X amount of years.
Jonas Nay plays Martin Rauch, a young former East German border patrol guard, who at the start of the series is in hiding in Anglola, teaching children English, after going undercover in West Germany in 1983.
Maria Schrader plays Martin’s implausibly and expensively modish aunt Leonora Rauch, who is also his former handler (it’s all a bit nepotistic). She’s now operating out of South Africa, where she is professionally and romantically embroiled with Rose Seithathi, an African National Congress operative.
Martin’s inscrutable dad Walter Schweppenstette (Sylvester Groth) is also Lenora’s former boss, while former school-teacher Annett Schneider (Sonja Gerhardt), Martin’s high-gloss former fiancée and the mother of his presumed child (there’s at least a 50% chance Max is his), is now an intelligence agent.
This second series, the storyline of which is based around East Germany’s increasingly desperate attempts to get its hands on hard (convertible) currency (illicit weapons’ sales, the sale of blood), is supplemented by a documentary, Comrades and Cash, which I haven’t seen. It seeks to explain the various real life nefarious and ethically dubious money-spinning business activities employed by the GDR in the 80s.
The plot can be confusing at times, especially, as I say, when you can’t remember what happened before, but the drama is engagingly super-slick, and intermittently drily humorous, with an excellent soundtrack. I think my German has risen from the dead slightly, too, as I could definitely understand the odd phrase by episode 9, whereas it was all utterly incomprehensible to me at episode 1 (I got a good German GCSE … albeit in 1990 … and have never used the language since). So, definitely watch it, but from season 1, and don’t leave a gap of five years before watching the next series.