Interview with creator Tom Tykwer


Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer has said he is “married” to television after his first major foray into the medium with big-budget Sky Deutschland/ARD drama Babylon Berlin.

Tykwer confirmed that the 16-episode drama – set to air on Sky in the UK in October – cost €2.4m (£2m) per episode, and shot across 260 locations. The order spans two series of eight episodes, though it could extend to at least four more series.

The drama, which follows German detective Gereon Rath and his various cases in 1920s Berlin, began shooting in 2013, at the same time as drama Deutschland 83, though the latter premiered on commercial broadcaster RTL in the summer of 2015.

Tykwer, whose recent film credits include A Hologram for the King and Cloud Atlas, said he is “hooked” by the new wave of filmmaking for TV, adding that it has evolved in the last decade into “incredibly inspiring work.”

“It saves us, in a way, from the crisis of cinemas,” he said, adding that it is increasingly difficult to make independent films from “a certain budget onwards”.

“I’ve really suffered from my recent films, just to put them together, it’s been so hard. And then suddenly there’s this new form and it’s really inviting us to do things we want to do, and it’s not like we have to make any compromises.”

Tykwer’s prior TV experience included directing two episodes of Netflix’s 2015 sci-fi series Sense8 – an experience that served as a “test” for the auteur filmmaker before bringing Babylon Berlin to screen.

“I learned a bit about how to be faster,” he said. “You can’t go four different ways to see which is right; you have to go one way and sometimes two. I had to learn that, because I love to experiment in different ways.”

Tykwer, who directed alongside long-time collaborators Henk Handleoegten and Achim von Borries, said that the €40m (£33.9m) budget will be seen on screen.

“We were dying to make a show that’s not ultimately [using] one substantial interior location to shoot three-quarters in. We said we want the opposite – we want to walk around Berlin as if we had jumped into a time machine and we can walk outside and do whatever we want.”

Because many of the original locations were devastated during the war, Tykwer’s team had to recreate the era in a custom-built backlot at Babelsberg Studio, which features four different streets and various yards.

“The fact that one episode is €2.4m is amazing – it looks double that. It looks like a lot of money had to be spent, and that’s how we looked at it – we wanted it to be a spectacular cinema show,” he added.

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