Generations come and go, the work remains. This is the motto of patriarch Christel Wolf (Katja Riemann). The Nazi era and the liberation were taken through, in the economic miracle things went up again, even if the suicide of the director intervened. One has become guilty. Who doesn't? So it was already said in the first season of "Our wonderful years" after the eponymous generation portrait by Peter Prange. They were as hard as Krupp steel. The metalworking Wolf-Werke in Altena, Sauerland, wanted to survive, and so barbed wire was made for concentration camps.
While others in Altena, where a single Jew tried to take up quarters again after the war, came to terms with the past in silence, or fled over the "rat line" to Argentina like old Nazi Walter Böcker (Hans-Jochen Wagner), the leader of the wolf fate took his own life. The first season of "Our Wonderful Years" took place in the early fifties, was directed by Elmar Fischer and was a ratings success in 2020.
Over-emotionalization is not a good idea
Telling contemporary history not only in a personal mirror, but also emotionalizing it, is the recipe of many such productions, which used to appear as "event" three-parters and now, in a deceptive packaging of the same length and narrative structure as a six-part series, broadcast linearly with two forty-five minutes in a row, assert topicality. Filming history personally is per se an effective idea for mediation. Soapy over-emotionalization is not. The ZDF "Ku'damm" trilogy showed how something like this can go well, most impressively in "Ku'damm 56", the films that still bore the signature of their inventor Annette Hess.
"Our wonderful years" is in many ways the answer of the ARD to "Ku'damm". Both series are also family business history, geographically anchored. Where in one Ruhr area and steel barons set the tone, thus focusing on production and production conditions, in the other it is the service sector or the dance school as a mirror of social change. Where in the second season of "Our Wonderful Years" during the recession at the end of the sixties the shortage of skilled workers "guest workers" are supposed to remedy the shortage of skilled workers, with whose way of life one wants nothing to do, in "Ku'damm" new dance styles such as the rebellious rock 'n' roll are unwelcome fads. At least with the elegant Caterina Schöllack (Claudia Michelsen), for whom the elegantly stiff attitude of the magazines of the time is a means of repression.
It's dripping with calculation
In "Our Wonderful Years", one of the patriarch's three daughters, personnel manager Margot (Anna-Maria Mühe), could have gone to the posture school at Schöllack. Fifteen years have passed, it will now be about the Shah's visit and its consequences, the revolt at the universities, the '68 awakening and the hesitant beginning of reappraisal. Again, every topic, every event is completely emotionalized. Margot's rebellious son Winne (Damian Hardung) plays the leading role next to grandmother Christel and embodies the new beginning. Old Nazi Böcker comes back and brings international flair to Altena with the young Argentinian Gabriela (Rocío Lutz), who has fled the political unrest. Mayor and building contractor Jürgen Vielhaber (Ludwig Trepte) confesses to a black French monsignor in a touching life confession murders during the war and is allowed to build a bridge from Germany to France as a reward for the willingness to repent – a scene that is dripping with calculation.
Christel's other daughters Gundel (Vanessa Loibl) and Ulla (Elisa Schlott) each have to embody the zeitgeist in their own way. Gundel, the intelligent, is over- and under-challenged with her role as a housewife and mother of a writing babies (she gets parenting tips from the notorious book "The German Mother and Her First Child") and flees to a commune in the big city, where she experiences with psycho-drugs. Ulla has moved to East Berlin for her great love and meanwhile helps the Wolf-Werke to win a new major order. Again it's about barbed wire, this time for the GDR. In Altena, which celebrates its 1967th anniversary in 600 with a shooting festival and brass band, Winne blows up the dance floor with rock moves – until Böcker puts an end to the rebellious hustle and bustle with a gunshot. There is an academic couple who fled the Shah's regime (refugee issue), there is a fire in the guest workers' home (xenophobia), women show the men where Bartel gets the must (gender equality), life plans are questioned (diversity).
From time to time, archive footage of historical news and reports reminds us that, despite all efforts to perform current events in historical costumes, it is also about the reconstruction of the zeitgeist of that time. Mira Thiel (head writer and director) and Thomas Schiller (camera), Thomas Pfau (production design) and Peri de Braganca (costume) take care of the look and mood of the sixties. Once again, however, it looks as if editorial offices have ruled in from start to finish. The veil of soapiness is not on the actors. Emotionalization, identification and recognition are the means of "low-threshold" historical mediation. They leave next to nothing in terms of insight.
Our Wonderful Years will run in double episodes on March 11, 15 and 23. at 20.15 p.m. on Das Erste and is available in the ARD media library.