(Philip Oltermann’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/23.)
When Lars Eidinger first appeared as a careerist Nazi officer in the BBC’s recent TV show SS-GB, some drama critics snapped their pencils in despair. Here was one of Europe’s finest young actors, already hailed as one of the great Hamlets of the 21st century, cheapening himself as a cartoon Nazi, complete with creaky leather trench coat, shiny boots and skull-and-crossbones cap. And all that for a series with a whiff of Brexit agitprop about it, as the new German rulers of Britain rhapsodise about “citizens of a united Europe” while plotting expansions for Siemens and Bosch.
But by last Sunday’s final episode of this alt-history of the second world war, something had changed. Eidinger’s SS officer, Oskar Huth, who had stormed into post-Battle of Britain London as a snappy workaholic, had quietly transformed into a world-weary existentialist, overcome by the futility of it all yet stoically refusing a blindfold as he faces the firing squad. It was an audacious heist of a performance: even the Daily Telegraph thought the Nazi had stolen the show.