With eight days until a meteor wipes out Europe, a Berlin family uncovers some harsh truths as they attempt to flee the strike zone.
As riots break out in the streets, former physics teacher Uli Steiner puts his trust in smugglers to help his family on a life-threatening escape to Russia, but his wife Susanne worries about the safety of their children, Leonie and Joans. Her brother, the politician Hermann, has his pregnant wife to look after, whilst their bitter father Egon uses these last days to try and make up for old mistakes.
New religion, new factions, and new authorities emerge, whilst the police and other authorities try to maintain law and order as it decays around them. With the end of the world nigh, secrets bubble to the surface in the melting pot of Berlin.
8 Days (8 Tage, in German) is a Sky Germany series that explores, across eight episodes, the collapse of society and the social order that takes its place. We see characters come together and fall apart as survival replaces all other social norms whilst governments, the military and police attempt to retain some modicum of control.
Each episode of this eight-part run takes us one day closer to the meteor impact that will turn Europe into a wasteland as we follow a family trying to flee the continent, although the rest of the world will be altered by the impact. During this time, chaos replaces order and, whilst some try to remain civilised, others seek primal and carnal pleasure, realising that the end is inevitable.
8 Days is a German-language series that certainly brims with ambition. Across eight episodes, as disaster looms, we see all facets of life, from the loving to the loathful, powerful to powerless and those who try to cling onto whatever humanity they had to begin with. It makes uncomfortable viewing, but it’s also curiously dull to watch.
Whilst there are interesting elements fleshed out by occasional flashbacks – Klaus, who holds a girl hostage in his bunker to keep her safe from disaster, the new religion worshipping a former convict called Robin as the Messiah and the continuing work of law enforcement, the cancer-survivor Ben who has to navigate his own life whilst the world falls apart, the corruption of the authorities and others who appear across the series. It’s the story of the core family, led by Uli, that is the most fractured in storytelling. Uli is a dull character, totally lost in the new world that surrounds him, with his wife and daughter providing most of the emotional heft in their story, thankfully they’re broken up early, which gives Leonie and Susanne time to shine.
Perhaps that’s the biggest failing of 8 Days, the central story of the father and son trying to escape whilst much more interesting stuff is going on around them, despite their quest for a better life away from the soon-to-be-destroyed Europe. The young man with a much deeper story philosophising about and creating his own law and order with Deniz, the policeman who just wants to continue to do his job wherever that may take him, the angry old man holding onto ghosts of his past and the exploration of what matters when nothing else does, the man who thinks he’s doing the right thing by holding a girl against her will, the politician trying to keep his pregnant wife (in name only) at his side and the birth of a new religion from the ashes of an old one. All of this feels like it deserves much more screen time and feels like they have much more engaging narratives that could have been told across more than eight episodes.
The singular truths running through the series is that circumstances like these will, inevitably, lead otherwise rational people to make increasingly irrational decisions and that, whilst we can see the world changing around us, we’ll want to maintain the old ways for as long as possible, even when we can see that they no longer function.
Across its eight-episode run, 8 Days is a series of little joy, with many scenes of mental, physical and sexual violence that will unsettle some as it doesn’t show humanity at its finest, even amongst those trying to maintain some sense of morality. As we see the collapse of the conventional, sex plays a large part in proceedings, with bacchanal behaviour taking over amongst the young and the immoral; the BBFC certificate for the series is 18 and warns of “strong real sex, gory violence” and its not a misguided warning, either.
8 Days is definitely an achievement in storytelling, powerful and timely with its story of shifts in social norms and civil unrest in Europe. Navigating the series is as complex as navigating anything out of the ordinary and it’d be easy to say “well, I wouldn’t do that,” except that it’s largely a complete unknowable until it arrives. That is, in part, what makes 8 Days a success, despite the occasional irrational leaps of faith that the characters take – even at its least engaging, it maintains the underlying story of survival at all costs, with each person deciding just what that cost would be and how far they will go to survive, even if it means tearing apart what they know.
Dir: Michael Krummenacher, Stefan Ruzowitzky
Scr: Peter Kocyla, Peter Kocyla, Rafael Parente,
Cast: Christiane Paul, Mark Waschke, Lena Klenke, Luisa-Céline Gaffron
Prd: Florian Kamhuber
DOP: Benedict Neuenfels, Jakob Wiessner
Runtime: 480 mins
8 Days is available on DVD and digital from 6 January 2020.