Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Deutschland '83

With yesterday's passing reference to secret services, I remembered I've been watching some spy films recently. There's the James Bond style fast action ones but then a whole genre of slower paced movies, usually with the Berlin Wall included somewhere.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which re-appeared on TV in its movie form with Gary Oldman a few day ago. A bunch of the people that moved into later spy television series were in the cast, so last year gave us other beige-world dramas with rain, double decker buses and German borders.

London Spy (shown at the end of last year) was of a similar slow pace - I had a look through the shooting script and there are only about 40 spoken words in the first four pages. Of course, the spy aspect was secondary in that particular story, although it followed the conventions.

Earlier in 2015 we had 'The Game' which was set in the 70s and featured plenty of intra episode plot points to remember. I suppose that's why its easier to get something like 'Death in Paradise' recommissioned, with every episode self-contained comprising 1)a murder 2)some false leads 3)a grand reveal - often with something that only the clever detective could spot 4)a side line jolly jape like buying a rusty boat or learning to water-ski badly.

Anyway, its a long way around to saying I've been watching Deutschland '83 over the last couple of weeks and am thoroughly enjoying it.

There may be some remarkable co-incidences that help the story along, but it seems to be a good way to produce a snappy alternative to the frequently brown-toned spy format. The filming itself is also super saturated and entertainingly framed.

We get the East German border guard who is forced to become a double agent in the West and the inevitable culture shock when he sees the supermarkets for the first time (Sweet dreams are made of this) and the humorous hardship of another double agent forced to stay in the wealthy west as well as rafts of other passing characters.

Set in the 80s at the peak of the Reagan missile deployments, we get Nena's 99 Luftballon playing on the radios both sides of the wall, with the original lyrics that the balloons triggered a nuclear alert. In the German song it was a suspected UFO and some suggestions of street riots whilst the English version had a software bug and political escalation. They both scrambled jet fighters with flying knights thinking they were Captain Kirk. Oh well.

And that's just a side line in this fast moving and sometimes deliberately awkward spy piece. I'm finding it a delight to watch and a whole other style for some of the spy genre to consider. It shares some spirit with 'Good Bye, Lenin!' which is a German movie set just after the wall came down.

So here's Nena, mainly in German but on this subversive version with a bit of French added to the chanson.

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