Deutschland 83 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
September 13, 2015 by Dennis Amith
Wonderful writing, awesome performances…”Deutschland 83″ is a riveting series that I highly recommend!
TITLE: Deutschland 83
YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2015
DURATION: 8 Episodes (360 Minutes)
DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (1:78:1), German 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English
RATED: NOT RATED
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
Released Dated: September 29, 2015
Created by Anna Winger, Joerg Winger
Directed by Edward Berger, Samira Radsi
Written by Steve Bailie, Anna Winger
Executive Producer: Ulrike Leibfried, Sebastian Werninger
Producer: Nico Hofmann, Henriette Lippold, Jorg Winger
Line Producer: Tim Greve
Music by Reinhold Heil
Cinematography by Phillip Haberlandt, Frank Kupper
Edited by Sven Budelmann, Boris Gromatzki
Production Design by Lars Lange
Art Direction by Carsten Woithe
Costume Design by Katrin Schafer
Alexander Beyer as Tischbier
Sonja Gerhardt as Annett
Sylvester Groth as Walter Schweppenstette
Jonas Nay as Martin Rauch
Ulrich Noethen as General Wolfgang Edel
Maria Schrader as Lenora Rauch
Ludwig Trepte as Alex Edel
Lisa Tomaschewsky as Yvonne Edel
Godehard Giese as Karl Kramer
Uew Preuss as Markus Fuchs
Anna von Berg as Ursula Edel
Carina N. Wiese as Ingrid Rauch
Niels Bormann as Fritz Hartmann
Vladimir Burlakov as Thomas Posimski
Errol Trotman-Harewood as General Arnold Jackson
Florian Bartholamai as Felix von Schwerin
Michaela Caspar as Frau Netz
Our hero, Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay), is 23. Born and raised in East Germany, he is sent undercover, as Moritz Stamm, to West Germany, to work for a top General in the Bundeswehr. Officially, his job is to gather intelligence on the placement of the Pershing II Missiles. A secondary gig develops, infiltrating youth culture through close relationships with the General’s two children. But nothing and no one are as they seem.
Deutschland 83 is a coming-of-age story within a suspenseful thriller, set against the real events, culture wars and political realities of Germany in the 1980s.
In 2015, the eight episode German television series “Deutschland 83” aired on Sundance TV, becoming the first German-language series to air in the U.S.
Created by husband and wife team, Anna Winger (an American novelist) and Joerg Winger (a German TV producer), the series has received critical acclaim.
The series takes place years before the reunification of Germany (1990), with the East Germany (German Democractic Republic) and West German (Federal Republic of Germany) still within many decades of tension.
“Deutschland 83” is set during the time of Able Archer 83 (a ten-day NATO command post exercise which exercised a simulated period of conflict escalation and thus culminating into a simulated DEFCON 1 coordinated nuclear attack).
Because East Germany and Russian intelligence reports suggested that Able Archer was a ruse of war and was Germany with the help of NATO planning a genuine nuclear first strike in Germany, it was an instance where World War III was almost imminent.
The series begins with the introduction of Martin Rauch (portrayed by Jonas Nay), a border patrol guard from East Germany. He is also a young man who lives with his mother Ingrid (portrayed by Carina Wiese) who is in badly need of a kidney transplant and dating Annett Schneider (portrayed by Sonja Gerhardt).
Life seems good for Martin until one day, his life would change forever.
His aunt, Lenora Rauch (portrayed by Maria Schrader) is the East German Embassy’s Cultural Attache (a diplomat with a special responsibility of promote the culture of their homeland) and she enlists Martin to be a spy for Walter Schweppenstette (portrayed by Sylvester Groth), Lenora’s boss at the East Germany Embassy.
Martin, against his will, is forced to become a spy for the East Germans (he is told that if he becomes a spy, his mother would be put on top of the list for a kidney transplant).
He must take the name of Moritz Stamm, the name of an actual soldier killed by an East German mercenary and become the aid of General Wolfgang Edel (portrayed by Ulrich Noethen) in Bundeswehr. General Edel works with the Americans at NATO on the deployment of Pershing II Weapon System missiles and Martin’s mission is to take photos of strategic sites that NATO has planned to strike.
As the East German’s have spies that have infiltrated the West Germany military, Martin works with Tobias Tischbier (portrayed by Alexander Beyer), a professor at the University of Bonn and works in the STASI’s (Ministry for State Security) foreign arm, the Main Directorate for Reconnaisance (HVA).
While Martin succeeds in his first mission, the STASI want Martin to continue his espionage activities in order to find out more about Able Archer and when West Germany and their NATO allies will send a nuclear strike onto East German soil.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Deutschland 83” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and German 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality on DVD is very good as the series is broken up in three discs. I will admit that I wished Kino Lorber released this series on Blu-ray, but picture quality for the most part is very good. I did not notice any artifacts or any problematic issues during my viewing of the series.
Audio quality is good with crystal clear German dialogue.
Subtitles are in English.
“Deutschland 83” comes with the following special features:
- The Actors – (11:49) Interviews with Jonas Nay, Sonja Gerhardt and Ludwig Trepte who discuss the show and their characters.
- The Creators – (13:19) Interviews with series creators Anna and Joerg Winger who discuss how the show came to fruition.
- Q&A with Cast and Creators at the Goethe-Institut – (21:55) Q&A with series creators Anna and Joerg Winger, actors Jonas Nay, Sonja Gerhardt and Ludwig Trepte.
The first words that came out of my wife’s mouth after she watched a few episodes of “Deutschland 83″ on Sundance TV was…”You have to watch this show! It’s so good!”.
I have caught little glimpses of the series from time-to-time and wondered if she may be biased, considering she is German and she was and is still is, a huge Duran Duran fan.
But with Kino Lorber releasing “Deutschland 83” on DVD, I figured it was a very good time to check out the series that she and many people have been raving about this year.
And I have to concur that “Deutschland 83” is a magnificent spy thriller incorporating ’80s pop culture and captivating acting from its large cast.
But also taking one of the most tension-driven situations in Germany’s history and bringing it to television for the world to enjoy. The fact is a lot of people in America who are not erudites on the history of East and West Germany and how close the world was for another World War, is quite amazing to see how intelligence played a big part in preventing any misdirection leading to war.
The storyline resonates strongly for those who grew up in the ’80s. The pop culture such as Nena’s “99 Luft Ballons” or Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and technology such as the Walkman being enjoyed. Those little bits of pop culture hits home for those of us that enjoyed those things many years ago.
But of course, it’s the well-written storyline of how a young border guard is chosen by force to become a spy for his country, East Germany and transplanted to West Germany. Not having to say goodbye to his sick mother or girlfriend, he tries in various attempts to contact them and of course, doing so at inopportune moments and risking his identity.
To take on the identity of an aid worker to a General and having to be so close in proximity to an American General and German General with access to highly classified material and is given the task to take photos of those documents and get it into East Germany through spies who infiltrated the West German government or military.
There are also quite a few side stories in play. From General Edel’s son, Alex, who serves in the military with Martin but is slowly growing into becoming against the military. And also, his daughter Yvonne, who becomes a member of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cult.
Another story includes Martin’s girlfriend, Annett Schneider moving in with his mother Ingrid. And Annett discovering a major secret that Ingrid has been hiding. And also a story about Tobias Tischbier, an East German who works for the STASI but is in the West, working as a professor at the University of Bonn and his relationships with men and the fears, especially during the early ’80s in regards to the AIDS epidemic.
But the primary storyline revolves around Martin with the name of Moritz Stamm having forced to become a spy but is told that his mother would receive medical treatment and will be put on the list for a kidney transplant if he does his job. So, we watch his journey of several risky missions he must undertake as a spy.
Every episode is thrilling and the acting by Jonas Nay, Maria Schrader, Alexander Beyer, Sonja Gerhardt, Sylvester Groth to name a few is definitely worth mentioning as their performance are fantastic.
But with a wonderful eight episodes making up the first season, can we expect a season two?
To ensure to not leave people hanging after its thrilling season finale, Anna and Joerg Winger have said in an interview (included on this DVD) that the plan is to have three seasons. That is great news for fans of “Deutschland 83” and one can only hope the quality of the writing and acting remains consistent.
For parents who want to watch this series with their young children, just a little warning that the series does have violence and brief nudity.
As for the DVD, as much as I hoped that Kino Lorber would release “Deutschland 83” on Blu-ray, for now, only a DVD release will be available. But the good news is that the episodes are broken up to three DVD discs, so picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD. Audio is German Dolby Digital 5.1 and English subtitles are easy to read. Special features include interviews with three members of the cast, series creators and a Q&A which all take place in New York for the screening of the first episode.
Overall, “Deutschland 83″ is a magnificent spy thriller and as the first German television series to air in the United States, this series may open the gates for more international programming to be released in the U.S.
Wonderful writing, awesome performances…”Deutschland 83” is a riveting series that I highly recommend!
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