Quarantine Watch: Babylon Berlin
I had some nice company while watching the final episode of Babylon Berlin last night. I read that it was a supermoon. I don’t know what that means, other than bright as hell. I briefly thought about trying to figure out how to capture detail in the darks without blowing out the moon, but I was more interested in watching the show.
Three seasons of Babylon Berlin done. I read that they are planning a fourth season. I’ll watch it. I mentioned previously that the show is over the top in places. A lot of places. But it was a nice change to watch a foreign production. Their over the top is different than American over the top. The best example is probably Detective Gereon Rath. He relies mainly on his wits and determination. He has to. His marksmanship and fighting skills aren’t going to save the world.
The show is set in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, a place and time I would have loved to see, especially if I had a U.S. passport and money kept far away from any stock markets or German Marks. It’s a crime show, but woven throughout are depictions of then contemporary society (is “then” redundant here?), looming economic disaster, political movements, and innovation. There’s a great scene showing two of the protagonists traveling by airplane for the first time.
My favorite scenes in the show are the quieter moments. I could have done with more time at Aschinger, which sounds like it was an actual restaurant. If you watch the show, you might want to make sure you have some eggs, sausages, and lager in the fridge. It’s the same advice I give to people who haven’t seen Big Night, one of the best films ever made. Do not watch that movie without ready access to pasta, bread, olive oil, eggs, red wine, and perhaps a Negroni. Definitely have the eggs. I won’t spoil it, but you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Abrupt segue – Liv Lisa Fries’s Charlotte Ritter steals the show. Christian Friedel’s Reinhold Gräf is a close second. I’m biased, though – Gräf is the police photographer. It’s awesome seeing him run around with what I can only presume is one of the earliest model Leicas. My grandfather’s Leica is a Leica IIIa, and that was from the mid-thirties, several years after the setting of Babylon Berlin. So those are two of my favorites on the show, but all of the actors turn in solid work.
I think a lot of us look for parallels in what we read or watch. I can’t stop thinking about what that era might portend for us. WWI, the Spanish Flu, the Roaring ‘20s, the Weimar Republic, the crash of ‘29. The Berlin of Babylon Berlin has aspects of the Roaring ‘20s and the Great Depression even before the Great Depression. Interesting to see the Berliners’ hardships and think that across the pond, Gatsby was throwing decadent West Egg parties and people couldn’t buy a pint.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’m tired of discussions about the new normal, a return to normal, what will normal look like. I get hung up on semantics. But things are going to change. Most likely. If we wake up tomorrow and there’s a vaccine, there’s a chance that we pick up again like it’s the day after 2 January 2020, but with the feeling of having gone through a brutal months-long hangover. We’re not waking up tomorrow to a vaccine.
We’ll eventually come out of this, but the societal changes are seed for speculative fiction. I’m not good at math, so for the sake of my small tired brain at 1am, can we agree on a shortcut of 1/2s? 1/2 of the country will be facing economic ruin or the prospect of no longer being able to carry on in their pre-COVID job. 1/2 the people will have continued earning a steady paycheck, replete with 401k contributions, health care, and excellent credit ratings. The latter group is going to come out the other end with a huge increase in relative wealth.
I can see that generating a lot of resentment and increased economic disparity. Granted, there are all sorts of variables that could negatively affect those who maintained steady wages – stock market losses, caring for family members, etc. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume our current circumstances continue for 12 months. At 12 months + 1 day, 1/2 the country will have experienced economic ruin, 1/2 the country will have an intense bout of cabin fever. I should point out again that I’m not an economist or sociologist – these are amateurish musings. Like everyone else I’m just trying to wrap my head around all of this. (Where does that expression come from?)
Boom for some, bust for others.
Questioning God’s love, seeking comfort in the promise of God’s love. The United States has a long history of religious revivals, Great Awakenings. How many people will see an absence of a loving Creator? How many will conclude that love and worship of that Creator is the only thing that has meaning?
I hate when people start using too many questions in their writing, and I’m guilty of that now. I keep hearing people talk about the possibility that we will learn from this and seek out the lives we want, casting aside the things that corporations convinced us we wanted. Quarantined and separated from our friends and families, I think a lot of us are pondering those questions and possibilities. My guess is that any deliberate changes will be short-lived. Instead, we’ll see some variation of the Spanish Flu Roaring ‘20s. Great Crash, Depression cycle. It will distract us from a march larger threat, a warming planet that is not concerned with novel coronaviruses.
That’s a lot of doom and gloom. Not my intention. Some of it is actually optimistic. Resilience and persistence are incredible qualities. There’s also an aspect of great curiosity. Will the 2020’s, fresh off our Spanish Flu, roar? Should I suggest to my friends who sell vintage clothing that they stock up on flapper dresses, tuxedos, and champagne glasses?
I’m sad that my nieces and their generation are missing out on friends and school. Virtual proms and graduations, webcam classes, courting by text (I used the word courting), and no hanging out at the Burger King on a Friday night. If this doesn’t end soon, they’ll have to share that first illicit beer over Skype. Lame, but fodder for a future short story.
I hope that when this ends they get a Roaring ‘20s. New, daring music. Risk-taking writers. Non-socially distanced dancing. Successors, about a hundred years later, to Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Dorothy Parker. But without the gilded excess, and a vigilant, informed eye on the looming threat of climate change. And if that ship has sailed, well then keep dancing.