In Berlin Alexanderplatz, the evil is obvious

CRITICAL – Filmed with Shakespearean energy, Burhan Qurbani’s feature film explores the world of the undocumented with expressionism. A shock.

Three hours is short after all. Alfred Döblin’s novel (1929) was over 600 pages long and Fassbinder’s television series (1980) was nine hundred minutes long. Burhan Qurbani transposes Berlin Alexanderplatz in contemporary times. Francis escaped drowning in the Mediterranean. This Bissau-Guinean migrant lost his companion in the shipwreck and landed in Germany without papers. He is haggard, lost, does not speak the language. This mirrored cupboard lands in an unsanitary home where sad whores try to relieve the poor occupants, gets a job on a construction site.

Insults are raining down. They call him a gorilla, a macaque. He stands tall. A voiceover informed us that he wanted to become an honest man. How to be good under these conditions? How can we stay that way, if we got there? Following an accident at work, the refugee – he called an ambulance to save the injured – is fired by his racist boss. Here he is, ready to fall into the clutches of the horrible Reinhold, who prowls the halls, promises mountains and wonders (translating money and a car) to newcomers.

This gruesome trafficker sits at the head of a team of dealers who operate in a park. Francis, whom the villain renames Franz, does not give in immediately. He begins by preparing meals for the dealers, in order to maintain a certain dignity. This won’t last, with Reinhold dragging him into robbing a jewelry store complete with ram car and clown masks. The hero will leave an arm during the expedition. This Reinhold is a viper of the worst kind, with his red cap and his head bowed, his step at an angle. His motto is simple. He proclaims it from the rooftops: life is better than a bed and a buttered toast. He writes his phone number on 100 euro bills that he distributes around.

A Satan with a thin mustache

Albrecht Schuch embodies with palpable delight one of the finest garbage that the cinema has given us. With his soft voice, his composure, his reptile glides, he is the devil personified. In front of him, there is Eva, the sculptural patroness of a club, and Mieze, an angelic-faced escort girl with whom Francis-Franz falls in love. Around them, the evil flows naturally, takes a capital M in a nocturnal, grayish, threatening metropolis. Empty streets, tagged walls, shady bars, welcome to hell.

This slow descent is filmed with an energy, a power that has something Shakespearean, implacable, expressionist, and sometimes a touch of emphasis (the memories of Africa, the reminiscences, and especially an epilogue that would almost go wrong. in the air the company). Welket Bungué, an Omar Sy who has more than one expression at his disposal, illuminates this tragedy. You have to hear it trumpeting “Ich bin Deutschland” (“I am Germany”) in front of his dumbfounded cronies. His naivety will not survive this encounter with a Satan with a thin mustache. Redemption does not exist, even in movies, even in German. Ouch, we come out of there stunned, washed out. What a shock!

Berlin Alexanderplatz, drama by Burhan Qurbani. With Welket Bungué, Jella Haase, Albrecht Schuch. Duration: 3h03


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