Tag Archives: TV series

The Weissensee Saga (4 seasons German TV series)

Hard to believe that I wrote about the spectacular German TV series The Weissensee Saga 3 years ago. Here I am back for season 4. This is the story of the Kupfer family, East Berliners in the 80s-90s. When the series begins, senior Stasi officer Hans Kupfer (Uwe Kockisch) and his wife Marlene (Ruth Reinecke), live in a large lakeside home in the prestigious Weisensee neighbourhood. 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, Roman, 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.

Over the course of the series, we see how policeman Martin tries to break away from his family and his Stasi-connected ex-wife. When Martin becomes involved with the gentle Julia Hausmann (Hannah Herzsprung), all hell breaks loose. Julia is the daughter of dissident singer, Djuna, a one-time love interest of Hans Kupfer and now Djuna, in spite of her ex-lover’s protection, is under Stasi surveillance. Marlene and Falk Kupfer are opposed to Martin’s relationship with Julia–it’s partly personal but also this is potentially fatal for Falk’s career.  

The Weissensee Saga examines how the tendrils of Stasi surveillance infiltrated every aspect of East German life. Emotionally twisted Falk’s vicious determination to destroy Martin’s relationship with Julia has tragic and far-reaching consequences.

Series 3 takes us to the fall of the Berlin Wall, so series 4 finds the Kupfers in a whole new Germany. It’s hard to say just who has the harder time here–the older generation who hide their Stasi past, the middle generation who try to find footholds in the new economy, or the younger generation who suddenly have freedoms they never dreamed of. Series 4 shows the wolves at the doors as East Berliners, after initial euphoria, cope with economic and social shock. Workers in an economy that can no longer compete, lose their jobs, while others fall prey to various slick conmen. We see how a couple of cheeky entrepreneurs manage while other East Berliners are treated like second-class citizens in their own country. Of course, the Big Question here is what will happen to the Stasi elite? Will they pay for their crimes? Will the Stasi files be opened? Many Stasi submerge and then reemerge in prime positions in the New Germany all-too ready to throw their old Stasi skill set into capitalism. The Kupfer family continue to be divided and loyalties are thrown into question once more as some family members throw others to the wolves.

Highly recommended.

Series 4 clip

 

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You Should Have Known: Jean Hanff Korelitz

Remember the days when books had alternate titles? Well if I had to give Jean Hanff Korelitz’s book You Should have Known an alternate title, it would be Me and My Big Mouth. This is tale of how one married therapist’s very public statements, made via a non-fiction book, come back to haunt her in a big way.

When the book opens, successful New York therapist Grace is on the cusp of a huge upswing in her career. She’s written a book: You Should Have Known: Why Women Fail to Hear What the Men in their Lives are Telling Them. Grace’s thesis is that women in failed, toxic relationships “knew right at the beginning” that there were warning signs, but that they somehow “unknow” and “let[s] these early impressions, this basic awareness, get overwhelmed by something else.”

You know how we always tell ourselves, You never know, when someone does something we don’t see coming? We’re shocked that he turns out to be a womanizer, or an embezzler. He’s an addict. He lied about everything. Or he’s just garden-variety selfish and the fact that he’s married to you and perhaps you have children together-that doesn’t seem to stop him from behaving as if he’s still a single-unencumbered teenager.

It’s an interesting, but limited thesis. In the first chapter, Grace is interviewed about her book as she presents her argument that women marry men recognizing, but burying their faults as they walk down the aisle to short-lived wedded bliss. Grace has an inflexible approach to the ‘should have known‘ theory which fails to acknowledge a) a lack of experience 2) the deviousness of sociopaths/ psychopaths 3) a frame of reference and, finally, 4) plenty of people acknowledge in hindsight that ‘they should have known.’

Grace’s rather arrogant, judgmental argument is unforgiving. But then Grace, of course, has a perfect marriage to pediatric oncologist Jonathan. With a job such as his, Jonathan is gone a lot; he’s a devoted doctor to his patients, going above and beyond in his free time. …

Physician, heal thyself.

The first chapter was great fun. I knew Grace was going to get her comeuppance and since she’s put her rigid theory in a book, I knew she was going to regret her very-public words.

The second long, incredibly boring chapter tossed me into a bunch of stuffy uppercrusty women who manage fundraisers for the snot private school Grace’s son attends. These “highly tended” women may or may not subscribe to Grace’s theories about relationships, but like Grace they are coddled in a cocoon of privilege (although we are supposed to believe these women are more privileged than Grace). Amongst all the high-maintenance women, there’s one mother who sticks out like some sort of exotic weed, Malaga, a woman whose son attends the school on a scholarship. Malaga ends up murdered, and it’s a shocking event as things like this don’t happen to women in Grace’s protected social circle.

This domestic thriller is a slow read, and Grace’s (initial) constant eulogizing of her mysteriously absent husband is absurd, boring and nauseating. Here she is berating women for choosing to ignore the warning signs about the psycho men in their lives, and she’s blithely sashaying down the same path in a cloud of denial and … yes… stupidity. The best part of the book is the anticipation that Grace is going to get her comeuppance as her perfect little world crumbles around her. Karma can be a bitch.

The HBO series, The Undoing, places a different emphasis on various aspects of the novel. Smart move.

 

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Filed under Fiction, Korelitz Hanff Jean