Yep, I’m titling another blog post ‘Getting Distracted From…’. This is not so much an attempt at asinine self-branding, but simply testament to the fact that getting distracted is my intellectual modus operandi – anyone who has ever been taught by me will be able to confirm this. I caught up with last week’s Christopher and His Kind on the iplayer; a one-off BBC2 drama about the time novelist Christopher Isherwood (Matt Smith) spent in Weimar Berlin.
There is a further link to my recent Getting Distracted from The King’s Speech post here, in that Christopher and His Kind is another factually inspired drama set in the 1930s. Hot on the heels of BBC1’s South Riding, and as part of the BBC’s stated intention to ease off on its over-reliance on the 19th century for its costume dramas, the inter-war period looks set to become the BBC drama period de jour, in a veritable crop-rotation of adaptation. But I’m getting distracted from what it is that was distracting me whilst watching Christopher and His Kind: the casting of British actors for non-British parts.
This is often directly related to the size of the budget; usually, the more high-end the production, the more likely it is that native speakers will have been cast to play non-British characters. Christopher and His Kind, interestingly, has a mixture; both native German speakers and non-German native speakers play German characters. I should immediately point out that the accents of the non-German speakers playing German characters in Christopher and His Kind aren’t bad; no ‘ve haf vays of making you talk’ nonsense here. Their accents are just not… right, either. They sound not really like anything I recognize from non-fiction, and much more like a copy of a copy of a copy.
One scene stands out to me in particular; when Isherwood’s lover Heinz Neddermayer (Douglas Booth) is confronted by his brother Gerhardt (Tom Wlaschiha) over their very different ideological views. Watching the scene, I try to focus on the emotionally charged moment and immerse myself in the frame of fiction, but find myself unable to ignore the all-too evident fact that while German-born Wlaschiha speaks akzentfreies Deutsch, his on-screen brother most certainly does not.
This is not meant as a criticism of Douglas Booth at all. He is a talented actor (who I’m sure has had some voice coaching for the role), and an interesting casting choice given that he played Boy George in BBC2’s 2010 Worried About the Boy. But in a galaxy far, far away from the TARDIS’s translator function, watching two brothers divided by an uncommon language, I can’t help thinking that surely it could have been possible to find a suitable German actor for this role.
I am of course aware that this is a minor quibble at a time when the BBC has to deal with a license fee freeze et cetera; that unless you happen to have a certain command of the German language, you are unlikely to notice this issue in the first place. But I do, and it’s distracting me.