We’re joined by Andrew Kendall to discuss the new German film Fabian: Going to the Dogs, directed by Dominik Graf, and how it portrays life in a totalitarian state.
Don’t miss a single episode. Become a member.
Get exclusive access to our entire podcast archive of 150+ episodes, all future members-only episodes, and early access to new podcast seasons.
This episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, and special guest Andrew Kendall.
Fabian: Going to the Dogs (Dominik Graf, 2021)
Based on the 1932 novel Fabian or Going to the Dogs by Erich Kästner, Dominik Graf’s film adaptation transports us to a 1931 Berlin. It looks a lot like the present day, but with period clothing, Nazi pamphlets (and brownshirts), and the occasional period footage of the nightlife. Mixing Super 8 footage with digital to capture the characters, and occasional archival footage to evoke the time, Graf’s dynamic film is vivacious, unpredictable, moves at a clipped pace, and is never boring despite its three-hour runtime. While the sets and costumes are period-accurate, the performances are entirely modern, without any affects of the past, which is just one of many smart ways Graf connects the 1931 action to our present day reality.
At the centre of the story is Fabian (Tom Schilling), an unhappy copywriter with a PhD in English, who falls in love with a woman (Saskia Rosendahl) he can’t afford to love, loses his job amidst a sea of unemployment, and suddenly finds himself out of place as a moralist in an increasingly amoral world. Over the course of the film’s three-hour runtime, we get to know Fabian, his aspiring actress girlfriend, his activist best friend (Albrecht Schuch), and his lovely mother. At first, we watch them enjoy the pleasures of the Weimar Republic, but soon, they face increasing despair in a world where Nazi ideology is becoming more mainstream and having convictions is a luxury. At once a love story, a coming-of-age story, and the story of a society going to the dogs, Fabian is vibrant, funny, depressing, ultimately horrifying, but always intellectually involving. Though somewhat episodic in its structure, it is a character drama through and through, and it’s always a pleasure to spend time in the company of these characters, even as they go through despair.
Fabian: Going to the Dogs is available on VOD
On This Episode
- Related episodes (1:52)
- Fabian: Going to the Dogs synopsis (4:36)
- Connecting the past to the present (6:57)
- Adapting a 1932 novel with the knowledge of hindsight (15:01)
- The film’s tone (33:40)
- Meret Becker as Frau Moll (47:03)
- How the film approaches the rise of Nazism (48:56)
- How this is like Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones (54:07)
- Period costumes (58:48)
- Pietro Marcello’s Martin Eden and masculinity (1:05:35)
- Conclusion (1:20:27)
- Read Alex’s review of A Radiant Girl (Sandrine Kiberlain, 2021)
- Read an interview with Dominik Graf about making Fabian with Steve Erickson of The Film Stage
- Purchase our ebook Peterloo in Process: A Mike Leigh collaboration
- Purchase our ebook Roads to nowhere Kelly Reichardt’s broken American dreams
- Read Andrew’s reviews at Stabroek News
- Ep. 93: The films of Agnieszka Holland (Members Only)
- Ep. 82: Quo Vadis, Aida and Our Lady of the Nile: Genocide on film (Members Only)
- Ep. 5: Christian Petzold’s Transit (Members Only)