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ZDF multi-part series “The Palace”: Happy ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall

The ZDF shows “The Palace”, a story about separated twins in front of a dashing revue background.

Gregor Gysi remembers how his mother, who was responsible for exchanges with foreign countries in the GDR’s Ministry of Culture, always got tickets for the Friedrichstadtpalast. In 1965, for example, for Louis Armstrong, who was cheered until he came on stage in a dressing gown and asked to be allowed to go to sleep.

“The palace”, as the Berlin house is called today, was a market hall, then a circus, became Max Reinhardt’s “Great Theater” (converted by Hans Poelzig) in 1919, and under the National Socialists it became the “People’s Theater”. And although the stage was destroyed in the war, it was played again as “Varieté der 3000” in August 1945. Just two years later it was called the Friedrichstadtpalast, and after the Wall was built it became the “center of socialist entertainment” and the pride of the comrades. The GDR had a new building cost 213 million marks in the early 1980s. The new opening was broadcast on television.

A half-hour documentary by Andreas Gräfenstein provides information on current events about the history of the largest revue theater in Europe. The current occasion: “The Palace”, a six-part TV series directed by Uli Edel and which will be broadcast on ZDF for the next three evenings, uses the opulent show background, including the famous “Kickline” from more than 30 precise dancers throwing their legs. The competitors’ “Black Swan” motif plays a role in “The Palace”, but a modest one.

The story of Rodica Doehnert, book, does not contain as detailed dance scenes as one might expect. Because in 1988 a young woman from Bamberg, while visiting the Friedrichstadtpalast, noticed a dancer who looked more than just like her. If you follow her, you realize that it must be a – previously unknown – twin sister. Both confront their families with it, the Wessi Marlene briskly, Ossi Christine more hesitantly. The plan arises to change identity from time to time – because hey, what can happen if you look so similar and have a BRD passport? Marlene marches to the hospital where her birth mother is currently lying. Chris travels to Bamberg to meet her birth father.

It doesn’t go well for really long, relatives and finally, because of the many border crossings, also the Stasi find out about the two (played by one: Svenja Jung, who is also very knowledgeable about dancing). Fortunately, the fall of the Berlin Wall is not far away.

The somewhat over-dramatized story of the separated twins takes place against the background of the ever faster crumbling GDR and the disillusionment of the idealists. Anja Kling, who herself fled from the GDR before the fall of the Berlin Wall, plays Chris’ mother Rosa, who glowed for “never again war, never again fascism” – and now works in a light bulb factory. Even their communist parents – as an old couple, most recently humming “Die Internationale” happily: Hermann Beyer and Ursula Werner – are now more critical of their “democratic republic”. And the director of the palace (played by Matthias Brenner, ex-director of the New Theater in Halle) only wants to provide his house with air and money in the face of political comrades who want to see the ideals of socialism danced in a new revue. How, shouldn’t that work?

On the other hand, there are plenty of self-righteous Westerners: Heino Ferch as the head of the company who never thought of living in the East with the woman he loved. And who wants to terminate the contract with the GDR’s Foreign Trade Ministry immediately as soon as his company is doing better. In addition, Friedrich von Thun as Marlene’s grandfather, who would certainly not do any business with those in the “Zone”. And actually Marlene is one of them, a little better-Wessi.

But the fall of the wall comes like a well-made deus ex machina. Perhaps most beautifully the scene in which the make-up artist holds up a sign from the scenery during the performance: “THE WALL IS OPEN”.

“The Palace”: six episodes on January 3rd, 4th and 5th, ZDF, 8:15 pm. And already in the ZDF media library.

“The Palace – The Documentation”: ZDF, 7:25 pm.

The Friedrichstadtpalast in Berlin is currently playing to 2Gplus rules.

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