Alfred Dublin’s masterpiece “Berlin Alexanderplatz” received the honor of the most famous playwright on TV, not in films. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15-hour adaptation In 1980. Burhan Qurbani’s ambitious film by the same name re-centers the Weimar era on a 21st-century immigrant from Guinea-Bissau, who seeks straight and narrow but works for a psychopathic drug dealer.
Cash is one of the reasons that Franz (the quietly winning Welcate bungalow) lives in the orbit of Rheinhold (Albrecht Schuch), a sniffing underboss who makes a new promise to break out of poverty and discrimination in Berlin. But Franz’s loyalty is rewarded with the tragic betrayal of Reinhold, who leaves Fries dead and missing half-handed. Reinhold is aware of a Svengali-like grip on Frenz and the women who increasingly characterize the character’s dubious magnetism.
The clubs and flats of Franz frequencies provoke Berlin’s Demondé which is colorful but still a regular one. A strong voice-over tries to overcome Franz’s tragedy with a tragic air, but it all just feels like a stew without warning and wild audacity. And when Miz (Jella Haase), a lover and Gemtlich escort, enters as Franz’s potential savior, she proves to be trusting of unreliability (like the other female characters in the film).
Qurbani escapes the urban montage to a captivating view of Berlin’s Doblin and a steady low fog of despair (unless the epilogue on a nail brings some sunshine). His “Berlin Alexanderplatz” is a good place to visit, but you probably don’t want to stay there for three hours.
Not rated. In German, with subtitles. Running time: 3 hours 3 minutes. View through virtual cinema.