Monday, 16 June 2014

Nacht über Berlin (4 Stars)

I've finally been able to buy this film on DVD after seeing it on television 18 months ago. German television, that is. Many, though not all German television programmes are available to view on demand free of cost online, but usually only for a week. The main websites for free viewing are

ARD and ZDF are the two main television companies in Germany, similar to the BBC and ITV in England. The smaller German television companies also have Mediatheks, but the ones I know are all pay services.

A problem with both sites is that they don't have a consistent layout. What I mean is that if you visit the sites every week and get used to what's where on the site, they occasionally redesign, and everything is in different places. For that reason I recommend that you only bookmark the main pages, because links to pages of your favourite categories might break next time you visit.

The ARD page is relatively easy to navigate. I'll assume that my German speaking readers want to watch films, so I'll use that as an example. On the main page scroll down to "Film-Highlights", and then click on "Alle Zeigen" (show all). Doing that today, 18 films are displayed. 13 of them can be viewed immediately. 4 are "for adults only", so they can only be watched after 10pm German time. The site doesn't plan for viewers outside of Germany, so you'll have to figure out what time you can watch it in your own country. One film is blocked for viewers outside of Germany.

The ZDF page is messy. It's not easy to find films, and it seems that the current redesign tries harder to conceal them. On the main page click "Rubriken" (categories). Then click "Film". Then click "Ganze Filme im ZDF" (complete films in ZDF), which is hidden among all the subcategories of "Film" and seems to be in a different place every day. 7 films are displayed. 6 can be viewed immediately, and one film is blocked for viewers outside of Germany. Sometimes you can find more films hidden in other subcategories. For instance, if you click "Film in ZDFkultur" instead of "Ganze Filme im ZDF" another two films are displayed, of which one can only be watched after 10pm and the other is blocked for viewers outside of Germany.

That's a pretty good selection overall. 27 films, of which 24 are available to be watched. They're a mixture of new and old films, all original German films. I suspect that copyright restrictions don't allow the Mediatheks to include foreign films. The films are rarely described, but if you google the names you can usually find reviews on other sites. Or do what I do: just make an intelligent guess what the film is about, based on the title and the picture, and after five minutes you'll figure out if you were right. As I already mentioned, the films are only available for a limited time, so the selection will change every week.

To get to the film itself, I don't want to say too much, so click here to read my original review. The film shows that in the early 1930's the lines weren't as clearly drawn as after Hitler's ascension to power. Henny has a Jewish boyfriend, while her sister is engaged to a Nazi, and they all sit at the same table for Sunday dinner. The "Ballhaus" is a cabaret owned by a Jewish transvestite, but the majority of the guests are Nazis, many of which visit wearing their full uniforms. The Nazis were already anti-Jewish, but most Jews didn't think it would get worse. They naively believed that they could all get along.

My main criticism of the DVD itself is that it doesn't contain subtitles, neither German nor English. Many English people understand German without being expert speakers, so German subtitles would help them when the dialogue gets fast.

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