FunAstrologyDieter Wedel is dead - finally a shadow over...

Dieter Wedel is dead – finally a shadow over life and work

Created: 7/20/2022, 6:33 p.m

Dieter Wedel in der Stiftsruine von Bad Hersfeld.
Dieter Wedel in the monastery ruins of Bad Hersfeld. © dpa

A great director, a tragic case – to the death of Dieter Wedel.

The form of the news of director Dieter Wedel’s death already reveals something about the tragic dimension, which goes far beyond mourning. It was transmitted to the Munich I Regional Court, where criminal proceedings against Wedel had been pending for more than a year after the public prosecutor’s office had brought charges of raping an actress. From the media public, in which Wedel was once a welcome and extremely eloquent conversation partner, he had largely disappeared since 2018 after several actresses and former employees had allegations of sexual violence against him in the course of the MeToo movement.

His demanding, often domineering style of directing was no secret in the industry. From then on, however, it was no longer a matter of lack of self-control that was deliberately overlooked by the general public and increasing to the point of irascibility;

Last December, the court announced that it had still not been decided whether there would be a trial. According to the Munich district court, Dieter Wedel died on July 13 in Hamburg at the age of 82.

At the beginning of his professional career, little was to be guessed about his later furious reputation as a director. Wedel began in the mid-1960s as an arranger of radio plays at Radio Bremen and shortly afterwards switched to the television play department at Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR). Although public service broadcasting was an important helper in many film productions at this time, television itself was rather smiled at by large parts of the ambitious German film scene, which tried to free itself from the image corset of grandpa’s cinema.

This did not prevent Dieter Wedel from realizing his film ideas expressly for television. “Gedenktag”, a 1970 film about the uprisings on June 17, 1953, was followed two years later by the breakthrough with the three-part film “Once in a Lifetime”, in which Wedel played through the societal and social abysses using the example of the fictitious Semmeling family that can arise when building a home.

This film already brings together all the characteristics that Wedel refined in later films and series with a special feeling for observing simple people when they survive, but also when they fail in their social relationships. Wedel combined the tragic comedy of the Semmelings with interesting facts about the contemporary construction industry, which knew how to shamelessly exploit the individual dreams of home builders. Social criticism went hand in hand with a sensitive description of the milieu, for which Wedel also knew how to use the form of the television miniseries for his type of film narration.

The Semmelings did not let go of Wedel in the further course of his career. Four years after the public success of “Once in a Lifetime”, he let his family, who had already had enough, live through the suffering of vacations in “Every Year Again”, and with the “Semmeling Affair” in 2001 he tried to deal with the German financial bureaucracy. The combination of narrative cinema and socio-critical research, as successfully implemented by Hollywood in a film like “Erin Brockovich” with Julia Roberts, found a pioneer, at least in the German-speaking world, in Dieter Wedel.

After excursions to the theater, Wedel returned as a director of large social panoramas, which now did not have to shy away from the competition of large narrative cinema with regard to the personnel available to him. In 1992, the department store series “The Great Bellheim” was an overwhelming hit with the public, starring Mario Adorf, Ingrid Steeger, Leslie Malton, Dominique Horwitz, Heinz Hoenig and many others.

The four-part series describes the decline of an entrepreneur-run traditional department store that, in the face of increasingly aggressive competition, is in danger of going under the wheels and is trying to defend itself with the means of care and solidarity.

Last but not least, Wedel’s “Bellheim” is an obituary of the ideals of the German economic miracle carried out with social-romantic verve. He was able effortlessly to avoid being accused of transfiguration through the brilliance of his acting, in which the actors from the film and department store family seem to merge with one another.

Although the follow-up projects “Der Schattenmann” (1995) and “Der König von St. Pauli” (1998) were similar and were filmed in part with the same actors as crime and milieu studies, they were no longer able to match the success of the “big Bellheim”. to surpass. As a man who loves television, Dieter Wedel pulled out all the stops and has since been one of the most prominent German directors, whose plans have already received a lot of attention during the preparation phase.

From 2002 to 2014, Wedel, who was married to the actress Hannelore Elsner and has a son with her (he was married six times and had six children from these marriages), directed the Nibelungen Festival in Worms – first as a director, later as a Director in cooperation with the theater director Karin Baier and her colleague Gil Mehmert.

Shortly after taking over the directorship in Worms, there was a break with his longtime star actor Mario Adorf, who, according to his own account, had brought Dieter Wedel to Worms, but then felt repelled by his ambition to be responsible for the festival alone. Wedel moved from Worms to the Bad Hersfeld Festival in 2015 before being confronted with serious allegations of sexual violence in 2018. According to information from those around him, he suffered a heart attack soon after.

In August 2019, Dieter Wedel, visibly recovered, gave an interview to a local newspaper on the terrace of the Hotel Thermalis in Bad Hersfeld, in which he also addressed the significant allegations from 2018 and complained that some of them related to things more than 30 years ago and are not proven. In the course of the conversation, in which Wedel presented himself in a demonstratively good mood, the word witch hunt fell out of his mouth. Maybe he behaved wrongly, he admitted in the interview. But not in the sense that it is claimed. He does not speak about the suffering of his alleged victims.

And so the tragedy of Dieter Wedel’s death, beyond his evaluation as an artist and director, is that he has become the subject of accusations in an exemplary manner, the legal clarification of which is still pending. (Harry Nutt)

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