The Defeated is a gripping and disturbing drama. At times it is difficult to watch as the storyline is violent, enthralling and absorbing. The acting performances and cinematic recreation (actually filmed in Prague) of postwar World War II Berlin in 1946 are excellent.
At certain moments it makes me think of the classic 1992 film by Lars van Trier, Zentropa.
Excerpted from Ready Steady Cut 8.18.2021
Nazis are the quintessential villains of all popular culture, and indeed of history.
Anyone after a more lighthearted experience will be better looking elsewhere since The Defeated isn’t interested in giving you an easy ride, but it does provide a relatively unique and welcome slant on the Second World War – and it’s a gripping thriller for as long as it lasts.
What’s unusual about The Defeated, a new eight-part German-Canadian collaboration now streaming on Netflix is that it frames its setting of a bombed-out post-war Berlin within a specifically German perspective, despite its classically handsome American protagonist.
There’s a pulpiness to all this that stands in stark contrast to the pitch-dark themes and a convincing simulacrum of a decimated Berlin that has been brought to life with impressive production design.
It isn’t trying to engender any sympathy for the Nazis, you understand, but to point out, often very effectively, that there was an entire country full of people who were forced to live under their rule and exist in their wake.
One such person is Elsie (Nina Hoss), a former schoolteacher turned head of a fledgling police force that Brooklyn detective Max McLaughlin (Taylor Kitsch) is sent to whip into shape. It’s the smallest department in the American Occupied Zone, staffed mainly by teenagers and entirely by civilians, but it’s caught in the middle of rivalrous factions that include the Allied occupiers, a serial killer, a crime boss, former Nazis, and those just trying to make do without antagonizing any or all of the above.
Everyone is looting to survive, many are killing for pleasure, and American GIs are raping the local women with enough frequency that a local crime boss, the enigmatic Engelmacher, or “Angel Maker”, is using the promise of backstreet abortions as a recruitment tool.
If this were all Max and Elsie had to worry about it’d be quite enough, but they’re also besieged on all sides by the nebulous motivations of Max’s superior, Tom Franklin (Michael C. Hall), and his flirty, often drunk wife Claire (Tuppence Middleton), and the exploits of Max’s missing GI brother Moritz (Logan Marshall-Green), who went AWOL after being among the American division who discovered the first German death camp at Dachau.
It’s part earnest historical drama and part pulpy mystery; that it does both things really rather well is a bit of a welcome surprise, especially since it manages to do them at the same time.
Excerpted from The Prague Reporter 8.21.2021
The Defeated was shot entirely in the Czech Republic, under the title Shadowplay, for about four months from April to September of 2019 at a budget of about 750 million crowns ($35 million).
A largely-abandoned former sugar factory was used to recreate the dusty streets of bombed-out Berlin. Prague’s Invalidovna complex was converted into a Jewish hospital in the German capital, where an action scene takes place.
In addition to production in Prague, The Defeated also filmed scenes in Doksy, Karlovy Vary, Kladno, Lenešice, Mladá Boleslav, Ploskovice, Slapy, and Ústí nad Labem.