Breaking Bavaria

Breaking Bavaria

Michael Pickard
By Michael Pickard
May 3, 2017

IN FOCUS

Rafael Parente and Boris Kunz introduce DQ to Hindafing, a drama set in the fictional Bavarian village where mayor Alfons Zischl battles politicians by day and his inner demons by night.

Walter White and Alfons Zischl are both men whose good intentions lead to shocking consequences. They both also share a fondness for crystal meth – but that’s where the similarities end between the cancer-stricken chemistry teacher from Breaking Bad and the egotistical mayor at the heart of new German drama Hindafing.

The six-part series follows the rise and fall of the provincial mayor and the eponymous village found deep in the Bavarian backwoods that tries to project an idyllic image of family values but struggles with its inner demons. By day, people go to the local soccer club and practice Bikram Yoga. At night, it‘s off to the swingers‘ club or a rendezvous with the local meth dealer.

Season one also focuses on the German refugee crisis and skewers nepotism, ecological hysteria, clerical homophobia, political correctness and monogamy.

L-R: Hindafing producers Simon Amberger, Korbinian Dufter and Rafael Parente

The series has its German premiere today ahead of its debut on Bavarian public broadcaster BR on May 16. It is produced by Neuesuper and distributed by Global Screen.

Hindafing was first born two years ago when three writers, Raphael Parente, Boris Kunz and Niklas Hoffman, recognised their own inexperience was a stumbling block and took matters into their own hands to win a commission.

“We first shot a small teaser to get BR involved, as we’re very young filmmakers and it’s hard to get finance because normally they just want somebody who knows how the job is done,” Parente, who also produces, says. “So we had to shoot the teaser and, after that, we had one-and-a-half years of development.”

Having conjured the concept of a small Bavarian village and its megalomaniac, drug addict mayor, the writers then evolved the story, leaning on real-life events in Germany to come up with the idea of the polititican being given an opportunity to make money by opening a refugee camp.

The series stars Maximilian Brückner (right) as Mayor Zischl

“We realised during the development process that we wanted to make a statement about the refugee crisis, but we didn’t want it to dominate the whole story,” Parente explains. “It’s really not a story about refugees. It’s just one of the big topics in the first season.”

Kunz continues: “It’s quite humorous. It started out more as a comedy and, during the process and due to the influence of the main actor, it changed tone a bit, which we all liked. It became more serious. There are still classic comedy scenes and lots of laughs, but there’s a very serious story behind it all and serious moments, brutal scenes as well. It’s this thin line between comedy and drama.”

Parente, Kunz and Hoffman spent several months in a writers room breaking down the episodes and writing drafts, which were then passed between them until everyone was happy with the finished scripts.

“When the drafts rotate and everyone’s honest about their own skills and there’s not too much ego involved, it really improves,” Parente says of their writing process. “The good stuff mostly stays in the script and only the bad stuff gets redone. And because everyone’s reading different scripts, you can discuss if something isn’t working.”

Director Boris Kunz

It was during this time that Kunz, who also directs, was imagining how he would film each scene – but with the teaser already committed to film, so too was the look and style of the series.

“We really wanted to do something not very typical for Germany,” Parente explains. “Germany is very influenced by Berliner Schuler, a way of telling a fictional story in a documentary style, and there’s also a lot of very grey German crime. We wanted to change that and set it in a heightened reality.”

The cast includes Andreas Giebel, Katrin Röver, Petra Berndt and Ercan Karacayli, with Maximilian Brückner leading the line as Mayor Zischl, a complicated character whose desire to do good for the town he serves is muddied by his ego, his desire for fame and money and a meth addiction.

Parente says of the protagonist: “He’s always trying to do the right thing but always has to deal with the consequences of his wrongdoings. He also has some skeletons in his closet and he has to hide them, leading to more lies, so he’s struggling all the time. We tried to give him negative sides and flaws but he’s not a villain. We tried to make him sympathetic so you wish he somehow makes it through, even though some of the things he does are terrible.”

The part-serialised drama was filmed on location in Bavaria, where the production team – which also included Parente’s Neuesuper partners Simon Amberger and Korbinian Dufter – sought to present a different image of the region.

“If you’re a foreigner, you think of Bavaria as big beer glasses and people wearing typical German clothing – nice churches and a very rural setting,” Parente observes. “We tried to twist that around. The town hall is like this huge, concrete, ugly thing from the 60s, because that is also a part of Bavaria. And because the people [in Hindafing] are so detached, because Bavaria and [its capital city] Munich are so far from other cities, people want to seem innovative and trendy. We try to show that too.

The series was shaped by real-life events in Germany

“There are also themes that are very common in Bavaria that nobody talks about. For example, Germany has one of the biggest sex industries in the world because we have modest laws about that, so people from around the world come to Germany to brothels. One of the women in the show goes to sex parties, but it’s not in Berlin or somewhere urban, it’s in this really rural town. Stuff like that is normal in Bavaria but nobody talks about it.”

Speaking before Hindafing’s premiere, Parente and Kunz say there are no plans yet for a second season, “but we’re all eager to do it,” the director adds. “I have spent a lot of time now with these characters and I would be very excited to find completely new stories for them. We have an ending where we can go on, but if there’s no season two, it’s still OK. There’s no cliffhanger at the end.”

While they await news of a possible recommission, the Neuesuper team is busy working on Acht Tage (Eight Days), an end-of-the-world drama for Sky Deutschland that has Oscar winner Stefan Ruzowitzky (Die Fälscher) attached to direct. It is due to air in 2018.

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