‘Barbaren’ or ‘Barbarians’ Preview: It should be a refreshing change to see German history outside of WWII bubble

‘Barbaren’ or ‘Barbarians’ Preview: It should be a refreshing change to see German history outside of WWII bubble
Laurence Rupp (Netflix)

It’s not often that we see shows and films about German history that go beyond the second World War. This is, of course, not true for Germany. But in American pop culture, most German history (aside from the great wars) are largely ignored. So, Netflix’s upcoming war drama makes for a spectacular change, because it takes us to German but 2,000 years ago. 

‘Barbaren’ or ‘Barbarians’, set in the year 9 AD, follows several Germanic tribes as they unite to challenge the almost invincible Roman legions in a legendary battle that would forever change the course of European history - the battle in the Teutoburg Forest. At the center of this bloody clash are three childhood friends who are linked by a tragic fate. They become the all-important force in the fight against the superior Roman power. Their path is marked by loyalty and betrayal, love, and hate; and ultimately, it proves to be a test of their friendship.

In the show, the Cheruscan prince's daughter Thusnelda (Jeanne Goursaud) and the simple warrior Folkwin (David Schütter) are secretly a couple. But soon the two are challenged in a completely different way: The Roman occupiers under governor Varus (Gaetano Aronica) extort oppressive tributes from the Germanic tribes, whose infighting makes it difficult to defend themselves together. 

Thusnelda and Folkwin “decide to act on their own and humiliate the empire in a daring night-and-fog act. To avenge the shame, the Roman governor sends out his foster son Arminius (Laurence Rupp). But the young Roman officer has a secret that connects him closely with Thusnelda and Folkwin.” Torn between the two hearts beating in his chest, the young man has to choose one side - and betray the other. The three become the driving force behind the uprising, which unites the divided tribes into an army. Together they deliver one last battle to the superior Roman superpower, which will also change the lives of the three friends forever.

The trailer for ‘Barbaren’ or ‘Barbarians’ sets the tone well. It is apparent that the series intends to be as dark as something like ‘Game of Thrones’ as it tries to tell the story of a complicated time in history. Because the battle of the Teutoburg Forest is not something that is ever discussed in American popular culture, it should be fun to see a period piece from that era. Historical dramas often only explore modern and medieval times. Add to that, the Roman empire is rarely seen from the point of view of its enemies. This should also make for a refreshing change. 

And of course, who does not like to watch a story of war and betrayal. And as is clear from the story, neither will be in short supply. ‘Barbaren’ or ‘Barbarians’ will hopefully see global audiences move past the only-the-second-World-War-as-German-period-dramas staple. Yes, the Third Reich is a landmark in the history of human beings. But that doesn’t mean other parts of that region’s history cannot be examined, does it?

‘Barbaren’ or ‘Barbarians’ will premiere on Netflix on October 23.

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