Babylon in Berlin – Delphi the old Silent Movie Theater

Babylon in Berlin – Delphi the old Silent Movie Theater

Babylon Berlin – the German TV series provides a glimpse behind the scenes of the Golden Twenties to the audience – an age which, parallel to the world economic crisis, gave birth to the myth of teh so-called dance on a volcano. The scenery for the interior shots of the nightclub Moka Efti, with the central dance scenes and stage shows of the television series, is the former silent film theatre Delphi in Berlin-Weissensee.

Thousands of people flocked to Berlin to dance, to explore the arts and freedom during this age of borrowed time.

Berlin, spring 1929: A metropolis in turmoil. Speculation and inflation are already eating away at the not so solid base of the young democratic Weimar Republic. Growing poverty and unemployment had been in contrast to the excess and luxury of nightlife and Berlin’s creative spirit. Gereon Rath, the young detective from Cologne, arrives in Berlin in the 1920s and witnesses the dazzling and ominous changes in the city. Politics, crime and society are all changing at a rapid pace. Together with stenotypist Charlotte Ritter and his partner Bruno Wolter, Rath faces a jungle of corruption, drugs and arms trade that forces him into an existential conflict between loyalty and truth-finding. Even an institution like the “Rote Burg”, the police headquarters of Berlin as the centre of the rule of law, becomes more and more a melting pot of a democracy doomed to ruin in the political events – the communist May demonstrations, the Black Reichswehr and the rise of National Socialism.

“Henk Handloegten, Achim von Borries and I basically didn’t shoot a series, but an epic 12-hour film,” says Tom Tykwer – producer and one of the three directors of this award-winning, audience-enthusiastic TV series, the third season of which is already being planned. “We wanted to capture the era with set design, costumes and set decoration without simply depicting it but giving it a modern touch.

The special mix of historical visual elements and contemporary implementation described by Tom Tykwer makes the TV series Babylon Berlin appear brilliantly in cinematic images. A visual delight between history lesson and an exciting plot enable he audience to move through a Berlin of the early 20th century, which not only stylistically, but also politically and socially shows some parallels to the epoch in which we currently live. Especially the set of the Moka Efti, realized in the former silent movie theatre Delphi, lets the audience immerse intensively into the party town of Berlin. The Delphi as an ideal place to celebrate the dance on the volcano, in past and present times.

Cinema, deposit, filming location – a reawakened place for art and culture

The former cinema in Weissensee is firmly connected with the boom of the film industry in the 1920s and 1930s in Berlin. It was planned by the architect Julius Krost and opened in 1929 as a silent film theatre with 870 seats. Weissensee developed into an international film industry area in the 1920s with the establishment of many film studios and cinemas. Marlene Dietrich shot the silent film classic “Tragödie der Liebe” in the Weissensee Filmstudios under the direction of Joe May.

In the beginning, the Delphi still showed mainly silent films, such as the legendary film “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari” created in the neighborhood, later sound films were shown. Even though in 1929 the world economic crisis brought an abrupt end to most cinemas and studios. The Delphi remained a cinema until the post-war period. It was finally closed down in 1959 because the building was dilapidated.

Exterior view of the former silent film theatre Delphi
The cinema hall of the Delphi in Weissensee
Above, exterior view of the former silent cinema Delphi, below the cinema hall of the Delphi in Weissensee. Photos: (c) Deaster

In the following years, the foyer area of the listed building was used as a vegetable warehouse, laundry, stamp shop, showroom for organ production and as a warehouse for the civil defence of the GDR. In 2013, the couple Brina Stinehelfer and Nikolaus Schneider took over in order to turn the old film theatre into a renewed space for art and culture. Today they run a theatre in the Delphi. When the former silent film theatre was up for sale in 2016, Stinehelfer and Schneider partnered with the Swiss Edith Maryon Foundation, which purchased the house to secure its further development and permanent use as a public cultural venue under the direction of Per Aspera e.V. The company was also responsible for the building’s renovation. It has been technically renovated, but the interior of the building is largely preserved as it was originally built. It definitely retains the charm of the last century. Today the Delphi is again an environment for exciting new and experimental art projects. It is a space for various cultural events, cabaret, music and theatre such as the opera production “Das Lied von der Erde” by the Berlin opera company Novoflot: In the midst of a scenic and cinematic environment in which one would never suspect Gustav Mahler’s Lied von der Erde, new visual and listening experiences are created that depict the famous song cycle not as a work of art from a bygone era, but as a multimedia organism with “volcanic” characteristics. Novoflot’s opera announces the imminent volcano outbreak and strongly advises humans, animals and plants to consider safety measures.

At the end of the year 2018, the Delphi is the perfect setting for Le Pustra’s Kabarett der Namenlosen. The cabaret offers a fresh view inside the 1920s Berlin and draws its inspiration from sources about the wicked Berlin nightlife of the time with its pubs, nightclubs, brothels and theatres. It is not about the glorification of this decade, but rather about the dream, the excess and the intoxication, which one wants to indulge in then as now with all its consequences, without thinking about tomorrow. Conceived and directed by the dazzling art figure Le Pustra – as conférencier, muse and singer, he leads the guests through the night, co-produced by Else Edelstahl, founder and host of the successful Bohéme Sauvage events: “Enter a decadently forbidden world of abundance, scandals and intrigues. Enjoy the grotesque and the bizarre and dance through a sparkling night with the beautiful and the damned!” – www.kabarettdernamenlosen.de

Events at Delphi: www.theater-im-delphi.de
TV series Babylon Berlin: www.babylon-berlin.com

Babylon Berlin – Foto: (c) Frederic Batier
Babylon Berlin – Foto: (c) Frederic Batier
Babylon Berlin – Foto: (c) Frederic Batier
Im Delphi: Dreharbeiten zu Babylon Berlin – Foto: (c) Frederic Batier
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7. September 2019 Off