I just finished to binge Deutschland 86. While I really enjoyed both seasons a lot, I'm now left with mixed emotions about the second. But that might have a lot to do with the kind of person I am.
Born in West Germany in 65, I came of age in the 80's. The wall has been build before I was born and it came down when I have been at the peak of my political coming-out. Looking back on that period of my life has me smiling a lot today - what did I know at the time? And it also had me to understand things and conditions which I took as "normal" then in a quite different perspective. And perspective is somehow relevant here.
I enjoyed season 1 quite a lot, because I has been very close to the life I used to live at the time it played. I have been one of the many at the peace rally in Bonn 1983 (Vor 35 Jahren in Bonn - 500.000 protestierten gegen Nato-Doppelbeschluss)
my brother has been a student at the University (and still lives in Bonn) and had his own share in the planning of the largest rally in the history of the "Bonn-Republic". I opposed being drafted to the military (and had to do community service instead) - and I had family living behind the wall - as many in West Germany - so the political conditions have been cutting deep into private lives as well.
I don't want to to "approve" the series as "authentic" or "real". In no way! But it's very good entertainment on the backdrop of the early eighties - and not too far off not to provide one or the other flashback to people who have been part of it.
Acting, production design, soundtrack... all that has been some of the best I have ever seen in a (serial) German TV production. So I became quite attached to it and have been curiously waiting for season 2 ever since.
So when season 2 (86) episode 1 came up on my device, it had me confused. Angola, of all places? What is this going to be all about? I know a bit or two about South Africa and Apartheid. The series had the historical facts all pretty much right. But the spy-story around Martin (Jonas Nay) and aunt Lenora (the absolutely wonderful Maria Schrader) could as well have been part of another Jack Ryan spin-off. Angola, South-Africa, Lybia, France? Really?
It really confused me, before it later even disappointed, because that detour consumed far too much screentime (beautiful filming, though, although just repeating cliches you have seen in plenty of other places) which it took away from the main story: The slow but steady break down of the walled-in German Democratic Republic and the desperate response of it's leaders to conditions they weren't able to control (anymore) - while their people tried hard just to go on with their lives.
But ONE thing I absolutely loved about the (South-)African endeavors: The absolutely spectacular and wonderful Florence Kasumba
! She's been growing up on the very same streets as I did. So there's more that a lot of hometown pride involved whenever I'm able to see her on TV (Tatort!) or the Hollywood-blockbusters she's been so successful with lately. I am a BIG fan!
Whenever the episodes returned "home" to Deutschland, they found their peaks in the story. Great, and I really mean it, great acting all across the ensemble. (Another eternal top favorite of mine: Fritzi Haberlandt
The authenticity of the (Berlin/DDR) filming is probably second only to "Berlin Station & Babylon Berlin", two other "Berlin" productions I follow - while the first works on the backdrop of "today, the latter uses much of a computer generated historical picture - because the challenges to recreate parts of a specific historic scenery - which is still been crushed and "capitalismized" in the last 30 years did succeed - at least as much as I can verify it from my own memory. I really appreciate when the backdrop of a story is as important as the lead actors. Here, it simply works very well!
I don't want to be too enthusiastic about the whole package. Looking to the US competition, the Germans still have a long way to go. But as much as the average German TV production is concerned, Deutschland 83/86 did set a new standard for a new generation of German film-makers... That's absolutely promising. The toughest challenge for productions lite this ones are clearly to be found in the writers-room and with their show-runners.
I am now looking forward to Martin, Lydia & Scheppenstette finally bringing down the wall in "Deutschland 89". That third season has to materialize, if anyone is listening at amazon...
My ratings (over all):
Season 1 = 4*/5*
Season 2 = 3*/5* (plus 1* only for the Berlin scenes)
Soundtrack = 5*/5* (it's really just so good!)
PS.: Other recommendations to the subject: The Lives of Others (2006)
& Weissensee (2010-2018)
!TV series point