Filmmaker-producer Tom Tykwer unveiled on Wednesday his TV series project “Babylon Berlin,” an adaptation of the first book in German author Volker Kutscher’s series about a police inspector in 1920s Berlin.
Produced by Sky Deutschland, ARD Degeto, X Filme and Beta Film, the series follows young police inspector Gereon Rath in 1929 Berlin, a hotbed of politics, art, extremism, drugs and murder.
Tykwer, who is serving at the series’ showrunner, and his writer-director team of Achim von Borries and Hendrik Handloegten, have written the first two seasons, comprising 16 episodes based on “Der nasse Fisch,” the first of five books so far written in Kutscher’s Berlin series.
Budgeted at €40 million ($45 million), “Babylon Berlin” begins shooting in the German capital and at Studio Babelsberg’s new, specially built “old Berlin” backlot in April. Thesps Volker Bruch (“Generation War”) and Liv Lisa Fries (“She Deserved It”) lead the cast.
The series will first air on Sky in 2017 and then on pubcaster ARD in 2018. Beta Film will handle worldwide sales.
X Filme’s Stefan Arndt said he was particularly thrilled to be able to make two seasons in one go: “This shows how enthusiastic and confident all of the partners are in our joint project.”
ARD program director Volker Herres said the pubcaster wanted to build on Kutscher’s books and “present them to German television audiences in serial production that holds up to international standards.”
Beta Film chief exec Jan Mojto said the first international reactions to “Babylon Berlin” have been very positive in view of “the subject, the creative energy invested in the project, the names involved, its high standards, and not least, its budget. ‘Babylon Berlin’ doesn’t need to take second stage to any of the major international series.”
Von Borries, who spent three years working on the screenplay with Tykwer and Handloegten, said, “The final years of the Weimar Republic were a time of continual crisis and constant attacks from political extremists. A rapidly growing city with immigrants from all over the world was in the middle of it all … this was a source of inexhaustible material for us as authors.”
Tykwer added that it was particularly fascinating to write about people of that specific era, in between world wars, who lived in a time with striking parallels to the present, but who could not imagine the dramatic and sinister political changes that would soon transform Berlin and Germany forever — changes Kutscher examines in his later books, which the producers also plan to film.