Analogous to the generally prevalent trend for remakes in the feature film industry, you also have some series in the selection which originated as films. Hanna is based on the eponymous 2011 film by Joe Wright and M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (M – A City Hunts a Murderer) is the series version of Fritz Lang’s classic from 1931. How do you account for this tendency towards adaption, and what advantages does it have?
To me this trend, which is taking place in various areas, seems particularly logical with regards to serial storytelling. On the one hand, there are often stories which you feel you would like to spend a few more hours watching; on the other, there are relatively simple stories which could be explored in much greater depth. Both possibilities are only offered by the series. As a format, it has the opportunity of taking its time and expanding on minor supporting characters and subplots. This makes the series format particularly well-suited to book adaptations.
In addition, the reinterpretation of a film in serial form can call upon an already established brand. That’s an advantage, though at the same time it presents an incredible challenge and responsibility, but one which the series in our programme are mastering with real bravura, which fills me with great respect.
Alongside the feature-film adaptations, there is another pattern to be detected in your selection: it’s striking that there are no US series being shown this year; instead, there is a whole throng of European productions. What led to this concentration?
This focus on European series wasn’t one of our deliberate intentions but the programme selection demonstrates how strong the European series industry has now become and the evolution it has undergone. Trust in the audience has led to an increasing courage to produce different formats and to diverge from the mainstream. A lot has changed in particular in Germany. Series like 4 Blocks (Berlinale Series, 2017) and Bad Banks (Berlinale Series, 2018), which were both knock-outs with the audience, have contributed a lot to this positive development. That series such as the aforementioned M or the German production 8 Tage (8 Days) can now be created in this climate is very gratifying.
In addition, the big streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are now willing to invest in the European market and to support new talent. They are developing material that is being created in the respective countries.
All in all, it’s a fantastic European year.
A glance at possible genre affiliations makes it clear that there is a tendency towards more serious material, with no comedy series in the strictest sense in the programme – how has this focus on rather darker content come about?
Crime is, in a way, the mother of all series topics. It has been present in all formats and in many different styles for decades, and that is reflected in our selection. We haven’t had a single year so far which didn’t include a crime story. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that rigid genre boundaries are crumbling and there is a growing focus on hybrid forms. The ‘dramedy’, for example, is being developed with increasing success. With works like Better Call Saul (Berlinale Series, 2015 and 2016) we continue to show series which, while they cannot exactly be termed laugh-out-loud funny, cover a lot of genre facets in their diversity and are quite upbeat.
Having said that, we continue to be on the lookout for comedies, though we also have to consider the programme as a whole. Not every comedy fits into every programme selection. Yet, as mentioned before, many series in our programme do have their humorous sides, even if it is a comparatively dark humour.
Are there any further thematic, aesthetic or structural similarities to be detected among the selected titles?
This year we’ve identified two big blocks where similar threads run through the stories. One of these is the motif of escape – whether it is an escape from reality, an escape into a parallel world or even the escape from a threatened collapse of civilisation. This topic has a certain urgency and also reflects what is currently happening in society. At the same time, series themselves allow their viewers to escape from their everyday lives, to plunge into a different world.
Besides that, family is playing a significant thematic role. Complex family structures can be depicted in multilayered ways in serial forms because they have the opportunity to unfold over time. There is a focus on the cohesion but also the dissolution of family ties, on relationships and backgrounds that cannot be covered in the same way in 90 minutes.