Fabian oder Der Gang vor die Hunde
It is 1931 in Berlin. The city seethes with a sense of freedom bordering on decadence. The story unfolds between modest lodgings, artist’s studios acting as brothels, Nazi demonstrations, and an exhilarating nightlife. We see this world through the eyes of charming protagonist Jacob Fabian, one of the last remaining moralists in the city. Fabian earns an honest living as a copywriter at a cigarette company by day and indulges in petty hedonism with his friend Stephan Labude at night. Stephan’s idealism and its gradual disillusion serves as a tragic allegory of the time. One fateful night, Fabian falls for Cornelia, a hopeful actress, and their sincere love anchors the story amidst the political frenzy building up all around.
The film is based on Erich Kästner’s autobiographical, subtly moralising novel from 1931, which was one of many books burned under the Nazi regime. Just like the novel, director Dominic Graf captures the zeitgeist and throws us into the collective consciousness of the Weimar Republic. With an unpredictable and dizzying mix of filming techniques, even including archival footage, Graf shows how the decadence and erotic naturalism of the city gradually alienates and repels the petit bourgeois Fabian, his ideas and, ultimately, also his humanity.