Babylon Berlin started on Sky Deutschland on October 13th and it seems high expectancies will be met. The very ambitious series produced by XFilme takes place in Berlin, the city of sin, during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933). With  more than 700 of our costumes being used over several months for filming, we see it as one of our largest projects for 2016. Pierre-Yves Gayraud, Bettina Sieffert, Claire Chanat and the complete costume crew: thank you a thousand times! We would be glad to work with you on season 3 and plus…

It could change the way Europe makes TV...” states the Hollywood Reporter. Merely a punchline? Maybe. But with a 40 million euros budget  to get the two first seasons in the box right away, and a casting that is very bankable these days (Volker Bruch will not be a stranger if you are up to date with you knowledge of german productions). These are elements for a success convincing enough for Netlix to quickly put Babylon Berlin in its shopping cart for US broadcast.

On top of it, there are convincing elements on the technical side. Tom Tykwer, unconventionnal director of Run, Lola, Run (in 1998, in the spirit of Trainspotting or the first Guy Ritchie’s films) knows how deal with large-scale films. For costume design, Tykwer asked Pierre-Yves Gayraud, with whom he has been working since Le Parfum. A good story? A grapping scenario? Babylon Berlin is adapted from Volker Kutscher‘s bestseller and he is currently writting his 7th crime novel about Inspektor Gereon Rath. Ony three novels have been translated into French so far.

Everything starts in 1929. Everything will end in 1938.

As for the date of Babylon Berlin broadcasted in France? No information yet. But hopefully french audience will not have to wait for a couple of years, as it had been the case for Peaky Blinders.

A few weeks before the premiere on Sky Deutschland, Babylon Berlin had been projected at the Babylon kino (movie) on Rosa-Luxemburg Platz in Berlin. The filming was hosted for seven months in Babelsberg Studios, located in the south-west suburb of Berlin. As a matter of fact, the studios are just facing the builings of UfA (Universum Film AG), the most important production-distribution company that brought Ernst Lubitsch, Friedrich Murnau and Fritz Lang to the world. All this is very coherent, with the names of Babylon and Babel coming back regularly as a leitmotiv.

The tower of Babylon is generaly identified with the Tower of Babel from the Ancient Testament. And the iconography shows Babel inhabitants being dressed as nomads, as follow.

Through centuries, as people should identify to the biblical parabol on a day-to-day basis, Babel inhabitants are depicted wearing modern costumes for each century. Brueghel the Older paintings are a good example for 16th century (a full view via this link).

Metropolis (1927), Fritz Lang’s chef d’oeuvre, was filmed in … Babelsberg as a UfA production. Not only will you find there the legend of construction of the Tower of Babel, but you (and specators of the time) will be hypnotized by the strong symbolical erotic dance of the whore of Babylon, by actress Brigitte Helm, that I warmly recommand to watch again.

Less than thirty years later, in 54, The Queen of Babylon emphasises less on the sexual aspect but still Semiramis uses her charms to conquer men and power. Have a look at the german version, it is a must! A good source to inspire Liz Taylor in the 1964 Cleopatra.

Charm, eros, voluptuous women… cinema makes a selection and gives a fantasy vision to pleases the eye. And Games of Thrones reproduces the formula, amongst many others. As in fact, all women from Babylon were not so lightly dressed.

Refer to tangible sources of 1750 BC, for example on Hammurabi’s code (in the Louvre) and you can observe that Babylon inhabitants were already wearing long dresses of pleated fabric, the style of which would be found later on in Ancient Greece with chitôn.

When painting Semiramis construisant Babylone (Musée d’Orsay) in 1861, Edgar Degas was really going  for reconstruction of History, not using an idealized vision like Viollet-le-Duc with medieval castles. Degas represents Semiramis in the role of the founding queen, not as a lascivious slave and certainly not as a temptress.

About sources.

The largest archeological campaigns set in Babylon were orgnized by R.D. Koldewey, on behalf of the Emperor Wihlem II. Koldewey dedicated his career to Babylon, from 1897 till his death in 1925, and he brought back some major finds to Berlin, such as the Ishtar door.  The german excitement about Mesopotamia  can be compared with the fashion of Egyptomania that spreaded in England and France with the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.