Berlin, 1941. A group of five friends are having a final drink together before two head to the Russian front. Wilhelm Winter (Volker Brunch) is a unit commander and his younger brother Friedhelm (Tom Schilling), a disappointment to his father, is a grunt. They leave behind Charlotte (Miriam Stein) who has just been accepted as a nurse and will also head to the Russian front, Greta (Katharina Schuttler), an aspiring singer and her lover Viktor (Ludwig Tretpte) a Jewish man whose father fought in World War I and who has misplaced faith in the Germans. As predicted by Friedhelm, the war will bring out the worst in all of them.
This three-part mini-series recently played on SBS, and while it does have moments that are fairly clichéd, it is very interesting to see these types of productions coming out of Germany. There is certainly an element of On The Western Front coming out of the soldiers’ experiences, with hope and gusto gradually replaced by disenchantment and destruction of spirit. And the amount of betrayal throughout, often very unnecessary and horrific. It says a lot about human nature in so many different ways.