“The House of Dreams” on RTL+: Emotional journey through time to Berlin in the 1920s

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“The House of Dreams” on RTL +
Emotional journey through time to 1920s Berlin

By Nicole Ankelman

The six-part RTL+ series “The House of Dreams” takes us to Berlin in the 1920s. Fictional stories are told about the real “Kaufhaus Jonass”. In addition to new talents, there are also stars such as Alexander Scheer and Nina Kunzendorf.

In the late 1920s, the Jewish businessman and war veteran Arthur Grünberg (Alexander Scheer) wanted to open the first German credit department store in the impoverished Berlin district of Scheunenviertel. In the “Jonass” at Torstraße 1, even the little people should be able to fulfill some of their dreams thanks to hire-purchase, that is his lofty goal, which, however, is not so easy to achieve due to financing.

Besides business problems and the nascent National Socialism, he and his wife Alice Grünberg (Nina Kunzendorf) also struggle with marital problems. In addition, her son Harry (Ludwig Simon) taps very differently from the rest of the family and he spends his nights in Berlin as a bar pianist. He has no interest in the family business.

The penniless Vicky Maler (Naemi Florez), who can quickly earn a little money as a saleswoman in “Jonass”, falls in love with him of all people. When she finds out who Harry really is, who she previously thought was also a poor musician, their relationship is on shaky ground. A marriage between the two is unthinkable for a number of reasons, although Vicky is now pregnant with Harry.

Real department store, fictional characters

Director Sherry Hormann, cinematographer Christian Pirjol and lighting designer Matthias Beier deliver beautiful photos of people dressed with an eye for detail in elaborate settings, creating a special atmosphere every time. Some equipment is computer-made, others are specially recreated in Görlitz. Before the shooting, the “Jonass” was there from 1913 in an empty department store.

Alice (Nina Kunzendorf), Arthur (Alexander Scheer), Ilsa (Valery Cheplanowa)

Unwanted love triangle: Alice (Nina Kunzendorf), Arthur (Alexander Scheer), and Ilsa (Valery Tscheplanowa, from left)

(Photo: RTL / Stefan Erhard)

And the “Jonass” actually existed, although little is documented about its history in the early days. It was founded in 1929 and, after its Jewish owners were expropriated, it initially served as the headquarters of the Hitler Youth and later as the headquarters of the SED. Today, the building houses the elite private club Soho House, where celebs like George Clooney and Madonna like to hang out when in town.

Sybil Volks’ 2012 novel “Torstraße 1” served as a loose template for the screenplays for “The House of Dreams”, although many things were reinterpreted, conceived and adapted for the series. Logical, because the book covers eight decades, of which the 1920s represent only a fraction.

Noble shine versus dirt and misery

The series makers have succeeded in illuminating the Berlin of the Weimar Republic from different sides. Noble splendor and beautiful appearance among the wealthy merchants and bankers in the city, to whom Grünberg has to beg for financial help. Poverty, dirt and misery in the Scheunenviertel, where Vicky and her friend Elsie also live. Young people and the poor find distraction in Berlin’s nightlife, where drugs, alcohol and sex provide at least a little distraction and joy.

And it’s not just the backgrounds that allow for an authentic-looking journey through time, the costumes do the rest. There should have been 5000 in total. Fashion designer Guido Maria Kretschmer was won for a very special dress. It cannot be overlooked that there is a budget of 26 million euros for this series, whose second season, which has already been made into a film, will start later this year.

A cast that convinces

“The House of Dreams” on RTL +


(Photo: RTL / Stefan Erhard)

Discover the new series now on RTL+.

The cast didn’t even rely solely on big names. Alexander Scheer, Nina Kunzendorf and Samuel Finzi, who plays Jewish businessman Carl Goldmann, are, of course, among the most sought-after faces in Germany. “Gundermann” actor Scheer plays Arthur Grünberg with great depth, especially in quiet moments. As Alice Grünberg, Nina Kunzendorf is an impressive personality with elegance and a touching melancholy.

But it is the rather clean sheets of Naemi Florez, Ludwig Simon and Amy Benkenstein who are the focus of recent events and who perform this task with great ease and enthusiasm. It’s fun to watch them all try to make the most of life despite the odds, even if they fail time and again.

With “The House of Dreams”, RTL has just the right series to usher in the boring autumn. And if the heating has to stay cold for cost reasons, the stories about the real department store and its fictitious employees warm the viewer at least a little from the inside.

“The House of Dreams” can be seen on RTL+ from 18 September.

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