The Weissensee Saga (German miniseries)

German Literature Month 2017

Back to German Literature Month and another excellent German miniseries. This time it’s The Weissensee Saga (Weissensee)–the chronicle of two families who live in East Berlin in the 80s. The Kupfers, whose lives are spearheaded by senior Stasi officer,  Hans Kupfer (Uwe Kockisch) and his wife Marlene (Ruth Reinecke), live in a gorgeous home in the prestigious Weisensee neighbourhood nestled on the banks of a lake. They have two sons, the very nasty, ambitious Falk (Jörg Hartmann), and divorced Martin (Florian Lukas) who has a mind of his own. Falk, who is also a Stasi officer, is (unhappily) married to Vera (Anita Loos) and they have one child together. Both sons live with their parents, and while Vera, thanks to life with Falk, is literally falling to pieces under the eyes of the Kupfers, it’s interpreted as ‘her problem’–something she needs to fix.

Enter the Hausmanns: singer and songwriter Dunja Hausmann and her daughter Julia Hausmann (Hannah Herzsprung) who live in a tiny Berlin apartment. Dunja, who is vocal about her criticisms of East Germany, is a known dissident and is under Stasi surveillance. Her performances are monitored and controlled; she isn’t allowed to perform outside of East Germany.  Julia and her German/American boyfriend are stopped by the Stasi one night, and Hans Kupfer reluctantly puts them under surveillance. Hans is seen as a more reasoned Stasi officer, whereas Falk, who is looking for promotion and wants to impress his father, is utterly heartless. Falk appeals far more to the current political climate, so at one point, Hans is moved off to become a lecturer at the Stasi Academy while Falk is promoted (and unleashed) to his father’s job.

Problems erupt when police officer Martin falls in love with Julia. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that all hell breaks loose. These are two people who love each other and want to be together, but we see what happens when Falk, who doesn’t want the taint of being involved with a dissident family, moves to make sure the two lovers are separated. There are scenes at the Kupfer family home which indicate that being involved with the Hausmanns isn’t just  a matter of not wanting to be involved with dissidents. Martin’s attachment to Julia is seen as extremely threatening to the Kupfers, and potentially fatal to Falk’s career. Marriages between politically powerful families cement society. Over time, layers of the Kupfers’ marriage are peeled back and we see a pragmatic relationship built with the bricks of ambition. Interestingly, Martin’s wife divorced him because he wasn’t ambitious enough.

As the series continues, the plot takes us down the dark, twisted rabbit hole of life in East Germany as the Stasi become involved in the lives of the Hausmanns.  Dunja sings a banned song at a concert, and Vera, who can no longer morally turn a blind eye to her husband’s actions, goes off the rails. The machinations of the Stasi (Falk) are incredibly evil, and what happens is mind-blowing. We see how people are manipulated into being Stasi informers: at one point it’s estimated that the ratio of informers when weighed against the total population was 1:6.5.

Watching this is an education in totalitarianism. Forget the benign incompetence of state government. What happens here is so vicious, so heartless, it takes your breath away as it becomes evident how the poisonous tendrils of the Stasi infiltrate every corner of life in East Germany. The series is being lauded as showing what life in East Germany was really like, so forget The Lives of Others.

There are three seasons of The Weissensee Saga so far with a fourth on the way. Do yourself a favour and watch this.

 

Once again, yes I know this isn’t a book, but German Literature Month is about celebrating German culture, and… as I said before you can read the subtitles. You can watch The Weissensee Saga on MHz which is available through Amazon or  Roku. Since MHz is also a distributor, it’s also available on DVD.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “The Weissensee Saga (German miniseries)

  1. It’s Lo-tech Lisa here again… I like the sound of this but we can’t get MHz here in Australia, and no, the series isn’t available for Region 4 DVD players either (why does the world have to have different DVD regions, really???)
    Anyway, I have ordered it as a Region 1 series, and when it comes I’m going to buy a multi-region DVD player because I am fed-up with hearing about great series that The Market doesn’t offer in Australia because it thinks Australians are not interested in foreign film!

    • Apparently there is a way to reprogramme DVD players if you know what you are doing. I believe that they are factory-progammed. But I have an all-region player as I too watch DVDs that aren’t available here. Fortunately they are much cheaper than they used to be. I watch a lot of Russian film that is not available here.

      • DVD players are so cheap now, that it won’t bother me to buy one if I need to. We are not actually sure if what we have is all region or not, and pulling everything apart to find the model number is too much hassle, so we’ll just see what happens when we put a Region 1 disc into it!

  2. I bought this series recently from Germany on DVD and look forward to watching it! So I’ll try not to read your review too closely for fear of spoilers.

  3. Many thanks for this, Guy. I’ll keep an eye out for it. Unfortunately, the DVD rental service I’ve been using for several years has just bitten the dust, so I’ll need to find an alternative.

    As a slight aside, have you seen ‘Barbara’ by Christian Petzold? If not, it’s worth seeking out.

    • Amazon (here) is great. Years ago, we were all promised that cable would allow us to pick stations a la carte and that worked for a while, but that idea went the way of everything else as the cable companies gained a monopoly. I dumped my cable company when I could no longer get Turner Classic Movies without subscribing to a load of other stuff I didn’t want. Amazon allows the a la carte option again. Here you can get HBO, showtime, AMC, Acorn, MHz, Walter Presents etc a la carte.

      Yes I saw Barbara as I am a rabid Nina Hoss fan but to be honest, while I’d watch anything with her in it, I found it slightly unrealistic a portrayal of East Germany.

  4. I bought the first DVD and liked it a lot. It’s finally on Netflix so I’ll continue watching soon. Did you ever watch Heimat? I think Max mentioned once that it was very good. I’d love to watch that too.

  5. It sounds great, but not currently available in my region. One to watch out for.

    Regarding Heimat, I consider it one of the finest tv shows ever made.

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