The second part of Jason Lutes graphic trilogy of Weimar Berlin begins on a more cheerful note than the May Day massacre of 1929 which ended Part One. In so doing Lutes really emphasises the vastly divergent social experiences of the Berliners.
Jazz has arrived! Josephine Baker is a star. And the night life is exhilarating! Dancing, drinking, cocaine, all sorts of decadent behaviour for those that can afford it and wish to take advantage of the anything goes atmosphere. For the working classes, however, life is grim. Seedy in a different kind of way. The homeless take refuge in tents in Berlin’s wooded spaces, prey to the thuggery of the Nazis who are in the ascendant. While the privileged squander their wealth on their licentious pleasures, the working classes struggle to find the money for rent. The landlords (needing the money for food themselves) send round the bailiffs. One is shot dead. The Nazi, Horst Wessel. Goebbels gives a speech at his funeral and that speech shows just how well he could play a crowd and rouse a rabble.
By mid-1929 Kurt Severing, the left-wing journalist, is in despair.
Quite how he feels, following the elections of September 1930 in which the National Socialists increased seats in the Reichstag from 12 to 107, remains to be seen. “What is the fate of the Weimar Republic?” Is the final speech bubble of Part Two. Well, we know now, but you do wonder what went on in the heads of ordinary Germans during these tumultuous times. Here’s Lutes’s concise insight. (Hopefully the picture is expandable.)
Horst Wessel’s funeral, obviously a defining moment of 1930, also features in Volker Kutscher’s The Silent Death. While the politics of the time do make an appearance, in isolated incidents, conversations, casual anti-semitic remarks, they form more of a backdrop. The main feature, if you will, is the world of cinema, an art form also undergoing major transition, moving from silent movies to talking pictures. It’s a development not welcomed by all. Indeed, someone has taken such severe objection to it that he is abducting actresses, removing their vocal chords before finally killing them.
Gereon Rath’s investigation is not straightforward. His ongoing feuds with other members of the force are not healthy. He does not declare the private investigation he is conducting apropos the death of another actress on set. Even when connections between that and the other cases become self-evident. Despite repeated warnings he refuses to become a team player. Then on top of all that, he beats up a colleague ….
… in a fit of jealousy. All to do with Charlotte Ritter, of course. The woman he loves, but repeatedly lied to in the first book of the series. The woman who walked out on him, who now walks back in on him – albeit without satisfactory explanation. Just as well, because she saves his bacon when he manages to land himself in seriously hot water.
She’s the one who’s going to turn him into a team player, isn’t she? In Book Three?
It will be interesting to see how the plot of The Silent Death develops in the next series of the Babylon Berlin TV series. Because the characters, their backstories and their lives had diverged so far from Kutscher’s trajectory in Series One. For a start Gereon Rath was almost likeable in the series ….
One final thought for today, and a further connection between Lutes and Kutscher. They have both chosen non-Berliners as main protagonists. Gereon Rath and Marthe Müller are Rhinelanders. Question to self: What is that all about?