By Andy Duncan
Well, what to make of Das Boot, the TV series sequel to the original classic 1981 movie with the great Jürgen Prochnow? Well, it’s tricky, as it’s only just finished here in England, and many of you may have failed to see it yet, so I’ll try to avoid spoilers, though some may inadvertently slip through the wolfpack net.
At first, I had been afraid it would prove a complete shipwreck of a show, with cod German accents all spoken in English. Fortunately, however, the producers Bavaria Fiction superbly mixed together a triumvirate of German, English, and French, within a completely natural linguistic balancing act. Plus, it became a lot of fun trying to keep up with the rapid colloquial German of the unwashed greasy crew of U-612. The producers certainly did do a good job of portraying the grimy life of fifty men inside an iron coffin, ten weeks at sea, without a single shower curtain between them, doused in the filth of what this must have been like.
But if I must avoid the plot, let’s talk instead about the major characters. First of all, just as the movie got completely upstaged by the drunkenly deranged Kapitän-Leutnant Philipp Thomsen, this TV series got completely devoured by the early and then late lunatic appearance of the bloodthirsty Korvetten-Kapitän Ulrich Wrangel, who’s certain to become a cult classic character. If you’ve ever wanted to see your enemy’s shipping destroyed in suicidal gung ho fashion, then this would be your man of choice to lead the wolves out of their lair.
And then of course, back in La Rochelle, we had the beautiful, gorgeous, and delectable Fraulein Simone Strasser, who unfortunately broke my heart at the end of episode four. Oh, the tears! So perhaps the less said about that, the better.
As there’s only so many times you can watch a U-Boat being depth-charged, and in a bid to stretch out the episodes, the show runners did need to spend quite a bit of time in La Rochelle with Fraulein Strasser. She played many complicated games between the Gestapo and the communist French Resistance, who themselves seemed completely happy to provoke the Germans into murdering hundreds of innocent French folk, to further their own death-cult socialist cause. Typical, you might say, but times were certainly bloody back then, in those black-and-white ideological times. However, imagine being given a piece of paper and a pencil to write out your last words by an officious bureaucrat, whilst outside, in the adjacent slaughter yard, the tired firing squad reload their bullets? This did remind me of being forced to visit any government office, but the cold brutality of this ‘death by official lottery’ felt real enough.
Though I’m sure that these last testament letters will have been efficiently delivered to the next of kin. Whenever there’s a socialist process at work, it must be executed correctly.
Which brings us on to Kriminalrat Hagen Forster, the head of the local Gestapo, and a definite criminal rat indeed. (My apologies for that dreadful bilingual pun). A man capable of speaking love poetry, drinking champagne, and showing tender sensitive emotions, whilst at the same time signing documents to order the mass-death of innocents. Superbly acted by Tom Wlaschiha, at first I failed to recognise where I’d seen this face before. After struggling for a while with that, I suddenly realised that he also played Jaqen H’ghar from Game of Thrones, an equally ruthless and murderous man, though one possessing an equally warm heart, as well as much longer hair. Quite brilliant in his mix of lust and love for Fraulein Strasser, along with his burning dedication to the National Socialist cause, Kriminalrat Forster definitely stood out as the last bureaucrat I would like to examine my tax returns.
And so, to say much more would perhaps lead me into a plump convoy route full of laden epic spoilers, so I’ll start wrapping things up here before I mention other characters who could give some important games away. Fortunately, Sky Germany has already greenlit a second season of the show, so there’ll be more to report on next year, especially after the half-surprising ending of the current finale show.
One criticism. Just like Game of Thrones, the show made far too much use of gratuitous nudity and sex. I know this has become de rigueur for some modern TV shows, but Breaking Bad never needed it, Lost never needed it, and Better Call Saul never needs it, so can we cut this down a tad please, chaps? And if we do need to see the occasional naked man and naked woman having sex, for reasons of authenticity and actualité, can we at least remove all of the brutal rape scenes? I’m far from being a prude, but uncomfortable imaginative suggestion often proves far more powerful than unpleasant graphic depiction.
All in all, though, given that last caveat, a great show, and a worthy successor to the original epic movie.
Most of all, however, in Season Two, can we see much more of Kapitän Wrangel? A man’s man and certainly no pussy. He’s really fab!