‘Oktoberfest: Beer and Blood’ Review: Refreshing German period drama that predates WWII has much going for it
Spoilers for ‘Oktoberfest: Beer and Blood’.
Perhaps one of the most famous scenes in Mario Puzo’s one-hit-wonder, ‘The Godfather’, or Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of it, is Jack Woltz waking up with the severed head of his favorite horses, Khartoum, in his bed. Woltz did not agree to Don Corleone’s amicable request, and he was punished for it. ‘Oktoberfest: Beer and Blood’, whether intentionally or not, pays homage to that when Curt Prank (Mišel Matičević) returns the favor to Elise Brockmann (Irina Wanka), a socialite who refuses his offer to elevate him and his daughter to the center of Munich’s social scene in exchange for money. She finds her pet dog dead at the side of her bed when she wakes up.
But Curt Prank is no Vito Corleone. He’s much more cunning -- though the most famous Don in American pop culture was cunning as well. But where the difference between the two is amplified is where we see that nothing comes in the way of Prank’s ambitions. He has no conscience when it comes to those standing in his way. From murder to blackmail to bribes to intimidation, nothing is too low for him.
This German-language limited series, based loosely on the life of Georg Lang, tells the story of the struggle between two beer dynasties for supremacy at the world's largest festival in a complex and opulent manner at the turn of the century. The show follows the Nuremberg brewer and restaurateur Prank, as he plans to steal five stalls at the Oktoberfest with the help of the henchman Glogauer (Martin Feifel) and the Munich city councilor Alfons Urban (Michael Kranz); for Prank wants to build a beer castle that could host 6,000 guests -- 20 times the size of the up-until-then usual beer stalls at Oktoberfest.
The story also revolves around Prank's daughter Clara (Mercedes Müller) who falls in love with Roman Hoflinger (Klaus Steinbacher), the son of Ignatz Hoflinger (Francis Fulton-Smith), owner of the small, traditional Deibel brewery -- the only person who refuses to sell his beer stall to Prank. Ignatz finds soon enough that the price for refusing Prank is too high -- his life. And his wife Maria (Martina Gedeck) and her two sons, Roman and Ludwig (Markus Krojer) must now proceed with caution.
For fans of ‘Peaky Blinders’, this limited series will be a delight. It has all the right elements that the former employs, even in its aesthetics. And it has beer. Lots of it. And while some people, especially those who are part of Oktoberfest in the present day, have objected to the show’s representation of the festival’s history, there is no denying that the show created by Christian Limmer and Ronny Schalk based on an idea by Alexis von Wittgenstein is an enormously entertaining one.
It examines the idea of modernity versus traditions, it sees the hungry growth of capitalism, and it doesn’t work too hard to create an aura of darkness. Director Hannu Salonen and cinematographer Felix Cramer employ the use of dark tones and shadows along with lush shots to emphasize how in this modern well-to-do city, evil and deceit lurks on every corner. And in between all the blood and beer, the show sneaks in an entertaining Montague-Capulet-like romance. It is also hugely refreshing to see a German period drama that predates the Second World War and the Third Reich.
‘Oktoberfest: Beer and Blood’ is an engrossing story which begs you to binge-watch. The cast does a spectacular job. Matičević almost manages to embody the vicious cunning of Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister from ‘Game of Thrones’. Gedeck too provides a powerful performance. The show also stars Brigitte Hobmeier, Maximilian Brückner, Martin Feifel, Vladimir Burlakov, Eisi Gulp, Petra Berndt, Sibylle Canonica, Michael A. Grimm, Ferdinand Dörfler, Angela Ascher, Monika Manz, Hans Stadlbauer, Urs Althaus, Christian Lex, Sascha Maaz, and Stefanie von Poser.
‘Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood’ was first released September 8 in Germany as ‘Oktoberfest 1900’ on ARD Mediathek. On German television, the six-part German-Czech television series aired on Das Erste on September 15, September 16, and September 23, in double episodes. The series is now available on Netflix for viewing.