Currently available on DVD directed by Friedmann Fromm and MHz Choice is the stellar series that pits two families against one another in seasons 1 through 3 of “The Weissensee Saga.”
It is 1980 East Berlin and two families couldn’t be more opposite. Martin Kupfer (Florian Lukas) is a police officer from a long line of Stasi police. His father Hans (Uwe Kockisch) is a senior communist officer for the Minister of State Security married to Marlene (Ruth Reinecke). Also in the family security business is brother Falk (Jorg Hartmann) who also lives at home with wife Vera (Anna Loos) and their son. It is a full household even when Martin’s young daughter Lisa visits.
During a traffic stop, Martin meets Julia Hausmann (Hannah Herzsprung) and is immediately struck by her. Deciding to follow her to work at the local beauty shop, he convinces Julia to think about going out for coffee. Even when she makes it clear that she is involved with her American boyfriend Robert Schnyder (Steffen Groth), Martin can not seem to walk away.
Hans learns about Martin’s infatuation with Julia and immediately becomes nervous. There is a history between Hans and Julia’s mother, the well-known singer Dunja Hausmann (Katrin Sab) has a tendency to sing songs that the Ministry doesn’t approve of. Falk also wants to throw himself into the mix while working his way up the promotional ladder. Knowing that his father and the superior of the Ministry Gaucke (Hansjurgen Hurrig) don’t see eye to eye, Falk uses that fact to try to break up Martin and Julia.
The Kupfer family is beside themselves when Martin chooses Julia over the family. Trying to find housing turns out to be as difficult as their relationship. When Martin’s daughter Lisa is missing, Falk is blamed which continues to flame his anger at brother Martin. Dunja has decided to record songs that are to be smuggled into the West, when her friend Meigold (Max Gertsch) is arrested for it, Hans does what he can to protect his former flame. Once again Falk is angry seeing both Julia and Dunja as a way to rise in the ranks by taking the women down. It turns badly when Dunja changes his plan leaving Falk to have to explain the incident to his superiors.
Trying to cover his tracks, changes in the department are made when Falk is moved up and Hans is sent to be a lecturer at Stasi Academy. When Martin confronts Falk about what has happened to Julia’s mother, anger and fury hit the brothers with Falk swearing he will destroy both Martin and Julia. To his surprise, Gaucke has promoted Falk into his father’s former position letting him know that something must be done to resolve the issue of Martin and Julie or else it will be Falk that faces serious problems.
After a time they find a place and Julia discovers she is pregnant. Beside himself with happiness, Martin is surprised when his father Hans helps the couple get permits for an apartment and things they need to make a proper home for the new baby.
When Dunja finally comes home, it is to a secret that she agrees to be a Stasi informer knowing that her apartment is also bugged. Turning her friends away at the door, Dunja believes it is the only way for them to stay safe. Julia wants to talk to a West German journalist about the treatment of her mother. Martin isn’t thrilled about it but stands by Julia in what turns out to be a fate worse than the couple could ever have imagined.
Five years has passed since Julia went to prison for the charge of treason and the baby does not survive. Martin doesn’t serve any time because of family connections but it doesn’t mean he is not waiting every moment for Julia’s return. No longer a policeman, Martin has taken a job in a factory and doesn’t speak to the family – especially Falk who he blames completely.
Dunja isn’t under the watchful eye of Falk much either and the Kupfer family doesn’t have much time for keeping an eye on her either as Vera and Falk’s son Roman (Ferdinand Lehmann) becomes gravely ill. Hans believes because Roman is a gymnast that the coaches used doping which led to his grandson’s illness. Falk refuses to believe it but Roman needs a kidney and makes a promise to Martin if he helps.
Returning home, Julia isn’t sure how to handle her life. Turning away from Martin seemed the smartest thing but she knows that isn’t possible and the two come together again. Vera and Falk also are working through marital problems as Vera wants to walk away from it all. Going to church to find solace, Vera meets Robert Wolff (Ronald Zehrfeld) and discovers that Cross Church is also a meeting place of civil rights activists. Wolff’s sister Nicole (Claudia Mehnert) becomes great friends with Vera but it is only a matter of time before Falk discovers what is happening. What they don’t know yet is that Falk is well aware of what is going on and uses a child to try and keep his family together – a little girl named Sonja.
Martin’s friend Gorlitz (Stephan Grossmann) offers up his house for the couple to live in and once again father Hans helps with what ever is necessary. Now that Julia has time to think, she becomes aware that it’s possible that their child might be alive. She tells Martin they must look at every chance that their child could be out there somewhere and begin with Dr. Maiwald (Silke Matthias) who delivered their daughter Anna and the doctor who pronounced the child deceased Dr. Schmolke (Joachim Assbock).
Falk is also on their trail and after a confrontation, everything is about to change as (**SPOILER ALERT**) Martin’s life no longer includes Julia. Dunja falls into the bottled and won’t let Hans console her. Both Hans and Falk attempt to change their lives in extremely different ways but Martin remains distant from them all. Knowing the only way to stop Vera is by arresting Wolff, she isn’t moved by his attempt to keep her by arresting friends, taking in a child or anything else.
Even more disturbing is that Hans finally has proof of what Falk has been up to and makes a deal with him to set things right. Also shocking in the ranks is that General Honecker dismisses Gaucke when he has a melt down and puts Falk in his place.
It is 1989 and what Falk has feared most is beginning to happen, the fall of the Iron Curtain! He should fear his father and brother more and now that mother Marlene is away of what is happening, decisions have to be made. Martin is beginning to piece together what happened to Julia and Anna and who is responsible. Also, Falk once again tries to strong-arm Robert Wolff because Vera has gone on with her life living with the pastor and his sister. What he doesn’t see is photographer Katja Wiese (Lisa Wagner) up on a roof taking photos of an event she doesn’t quite understand.
For the first time in his life, Martin takes a walk into West Germany after he finds Katja’s wallet. Discovering that he once again has feelings for someone, he is still careful about the things he says and does. Such is the life he has been leading in East Berlin. Yet there is a freedom being with Katja who makes it clear that she wants to help Martin find the answers about Anna. It also comes as a shock when Martin sees the photographs on her wall.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, Falk is struggling to keep using the tactics that have always worked for him. The problem is that there is nothing he can do to stop the changes that are coming, those who are making sure it happens, and family members who will do what ever is necessary to find the answers about the missing person in their family.
Kockisch as the head of the Kupfer clan is clearly not like the others he serves with. From the very beginning his decisions are based on letting people have the freedoms without the consequences that the treatment prisons provide bring. His heart is torn between the past and the family he is trying to keep together. When Martin falls for Julia, as much as he doesn’t want his son to have pain, Hans wants his son to never have the same regrets.
Lukas as Martin is a gentle soul who knows that the system of justice can work against good people. Meeting Julia, he doesn’t much care about the rules nor does he believe his family need interfere with his happiness. When that all changes, he isn’t about to let it all go as his love for Julia is unstoppable. I loved Lukas’ performance and mainly because he is a fighter of another kind. He takes it all in and tries to make the right decision, especially when his family is involved.
Herzsprung as Julia Hausmann is so lovely. She comes from her own dysfunctional family which means she and Martin have something in common from the start. Attempting to fight off her feelings, Martin doesn’t give up even when it seems their families will do anything to stop it. Herzsprung brings strength of spirit to her character.
Sass as Dunja Hausmann spent her life in music, a tad self-absorbed she tends to not pay attention to Julia. When she does, it is because Julia has fallen for the son of a former lover and knows the pain it is going to cause. Being from the “wrong side of the fence” caused her nothing but grief. Sass is an amazing character none the less her growth is intense. Reinecke as Marlene is a woman clearly aware that her husband harbors feelings for the one person she resents being in their lives. Even so, Marlene is a woman who will not let anyone disrupt the family she has struggled to keep together. Loss as Vera is a woman trapped in abuse and fear from a husband that doesn’t care about anything other than ruling with an iron fist — literally. Loss takes this character and gives her strength.
The winner for bad guy done awesomely is Hartmann as Falk. THIS guy looks like the guy next door with his charming attitude and boyish face but don’t let it fool you. He is devious, dastardly, caring only when it suits him and uses every opportunity to take someone down who Falk feels has wronged him — even if it’s his own family. It stunned me episode after episode what this character was capable of and Hartmann makes evil look easy. Well done!
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“The Weissensee Saga: Seasons 1-3” is a limited series that is absolutely amazing. During an era most of us know nothing about, the storyline gives an inside look at a life restricted by government and ruled by iron will behind the Iron Curtain. In the midst of it all are people who were willing to find ways to find love and freedom.
These characters bring much to the story and the ensemble cast is completely perfect in every way. The writers, Friedemann Fromm, Annette Hess, Tim Krause and Clemens Murath should be given every bit of credit for creating a saga that is stunning. Just when I thought I had things figured out, a twist would come that either had me cheering, dropping my jaw or throwing something — and usually caused by Falk.
This is a marathon spending time enjoying. The series is in German with English subtitles and all three seasons are available on DVD which means you don’t have to wait!