A new large scale German drama series has been making the rounds on Twitter this week called ‘Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter’ and it is interesting though flawed. I haven’t seen a production with these production values on German television before and I think we should see more of it1.
The series is somewhat schmaltzy (see the screen capture above of bullet casings landing in slow motion on a group portrait) but that is to be expected from a mainstream production.
What I found problematic is the sharp division drawn between the group of five main characters and the other actors in wartime Germany. The main characters are idealized figures who are supposed to symbolize their generation and its moral choices during the war. These choices mostly center on the small evils of oversight, looking away, following orders and opportunism. The real capital letter evils are perpetrated by others, mostly those of another generation, whose appearance and motivations are far more sinister.
I know there are several opinions about this (but I am not alone if I read all the critiques in German papers), but this portrayal to me seems to exceptionalize evil which is probably not the best idea. A more naturalistic and flat treatment of the systems of the war would have been immensely more difficult but also immensely better.
Update: Now that I’ve seen the last episode I would like to discourage anybody from watching this series. Any suspense and pace that was in the first episode was gone by the end. Moreover the writing and drama was absurdly poor by then. I know that properly ending stories is hard, but how a modern dramaturg and script writer signed off on this clusterfuck is beyond me. If this was the last hope for German public broadcasting to be relevant then that hope is in vain and the entire institution should be burnt down as quickly as possible.
- Something properly historical could be interesting. Martin suggested a series on the life of Charlemagne. ↩