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Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz was rather famously adapted by Rainer Werner Fassbinder into a 15-hour television miniseries in 1980, and that version was later shown uncut in U.S. cinemas. Doblin’s story of murderer Franz, who is released from prison and tries to live honorably in Germany of the late 1920s, has been updated by director Burhan Qurbani to a more compact 3-hour feature set in present-day Berlin. After surviving a perilous journey from Guinea-Bissau, Francis (the riveting Welket Bungué) vows to be a good man, but finds few paths open for an undocumented immigrant without a nationality and without a work permit. Struggling to make a new life for himself in the big city, Francis receives an enticing offer for easy money from the gangster Reinhold (Albrecht Schuch). While he initially resists temptation, Francis is eventually sucked into Berlin’s underworld by Reinhold, a psychopath who comes to resent Francis’ moral superiority and his loving relationship with the prostitute Mieze (Jella Haase). The fatalistic story of how contemporary society leads one man’s life to spiral out of control has been given an audacious, neon-lit reinterpretation, one that has the look and feel of a Michael Mann urban crime drama, complete with a pulsating, electronic score. “The attractive actors are flattered by scrupulously hip production and costume design, lit in pulsating hot-pink filters, and tracked smoothly through parks and clubs and brothels in the sinuous following shots of Yoshi Heimrath’s glossy, neon-lit photography” (Variety). 2020 Berlin Film Festival. (JH) 

Presented with support from from the UW-Madison Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic Studies.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    183 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
  • Director
    Burhan Qurbani
  • Screenwriter
    Burhan Qurbani, Martin Behnke,
  • Producer
    Leif Alexis, Jochen Laube, Fabian Maubach
  • Cast
    Welket Bungué, Albrecht Schuch, Jella Haase, Joachim Król
  • Cinematographer
    Yoshi Heimrath
  • Editor
    Philipp Thomas
  • Music
    Dascha Dauenhauer