The Hoffmanns. A Berlin Family Story.
For the first time, our festival will present an improvised story spanning several nights - we follow the development of Berlin's Hoffmann family, starting in 1925 and ending with today's date. However, each show will also be a complete story in itself. With this family saga, we will accompany the protagonists through time; we witness their dreams and schemes, their love affairs and careers, thus creating an arc spanning decades and generations, each breathing the atmosphere of its time. From the Weimar Republic to the time of the Nazis to the rapid economic reconstruction of the Wirtschaftswunder years, from the stagnation of the Cold War to post-Wall Berlin to the here and now, there is plenty of room for individual entanglements, hopes and fears.
The audience is closely involved
On the first night, there will be a longer phase of creating the characters with the help of the audience, beginning in the heydays of the Golden '20s. Who the Hoffmanns are, where in Berlin they live, which social class they belong to - the audience will define all these details in cooperation with the directors who will then bundle and focus the action from the outside; they will also keep going back to the audience for inspiration for the characters and their story in the following days. Randy Dixon, Mignon Remé and Naomi Snieckus will be at the helm in this order, each of them for two nights. The cast will be accompanied by improvised music which is in keeping with the times, played by our amazing festival pianists. Moreover, a chronicler will document the action during and after the show and publish the plot on a beamer (and later online, too) so that everyone – the cast and the audience of the night as well as those who haven't seen what was played before - is up to speed with the latest events. The Hoffmanns is a challenge we're very much looking forward to.
Günter Hoffmann – father
Käthe Hoffmann – mother
Ingeborg Hoffmann – daughter
Alfred Hoffmann – son
Heinz Krüger – Günther’s business partner
Marie – Alfred's fiancee
In the summer of 1925, things get a little turbulent in the Hoffmann family.
Heinz Krüger offers his long time business partner and banker Günther Hoffmann a joint investment in a new club in the flourishing Berlin nightlife scene. Although they both made a fortune during the war, Günther turns him down. However, his son, the Alfred Hoffmann, approaches Krüger in order to make a deal with him, because Alfred is the one who knows how to fill the new club with young folks hungry for entertainment.
Alfred’s sister, the mentally unstable Ingeborg Hoffmann, is a very talented singer, a new hope in Berlin’s show business. Her family is proud of her, yet her father doesn’t approve of her fancy life style and her drug habit.
Their mother, Käthe Hoffmann, is frustrated with life. Over the years she has continuously lowered her expectations. She finds new sexual pleasures with Rolando Pedro, a mechanic who regularly repairs her new vacuum cleaner.
Marie, one of the girls Alfred frequently meets in the clubs, puts pressure on him to introduce her to his family. Günther Hoffmann finally agrees to lend Alfred 20,000 Reichsmark to invest in the new club.
Heinz Krüger reveals his homosexuality and seems to find love with a man. Ingeborg, who has an affair with a girl called Katharina Meier, also admits to being homosexual, although she concedes that being lesbian might just be the fashion of the year.
Meanwhile, Käthe Hoffmann finds herself pregnant from the mechanic Rolando Pedro. Alfred makes a deal with his mother and Marie. He will marry Marie if she agrees to bring up Käthe’s illegitimate child.
Ingeborg sums it all up: “In Berlin, anything is possible.”
The Hoffmanns whined their way through the Nazi era. For opportunistic reasons, Günther Hoffmann has joined the NSDAP and urges Alfred, his son, to do the same. Käthe and her daughter in law, Marie, while not getting along, they still keep the secret of Käthe’s illegitimate child Karl. While good at sports, especially Rhönrad, Karl’s dark hair and skin raise suspicions among the Nazis about his ancestry. Heinz Krüger, a friend and long time business partner of Günther, eventually obtains a forged Aryan certificate for Karl.
After twelve years of touring as a famous singer, Ingeborg returns to Berlin and her family. She has become an entertainment star of the Nazis, which is just a disguise, as she’s actually working for the communist resistance.
Meanwhile, the Italian fascists who prepare the arrival of Mussolini in Berlin blackmail Heinz Krüger to help finance the Duce’s stay in the city. Heinz plans to leave Germany.
When Karl gets his Aryan certificate, Alfred gives up his resistance and agrees to join the NSDAP and take his responsibility in the family.
In this world of darkness, there is new hope: After twelve years of marriage, Marie finally gets pregnant. But so does Alfred’s mistress in the successful club. Alfred tells her, he will provide for the child if she doesn’t talk about it.
Due to her addiction to alcohol and morphine, Käthe Hoffmann behaves more and more erratically and finally dies. While dying, she hallucinates the return of Rolando Pedro, Karl’s natural father. Heinz Krüger, who is secretly homosexual, tries to flee the country, but gets caught by the Gestapo and eventually killed. After Ingeborg’s spy activities are uncovered, the Italian fascists murder her though this is never revealed to the family. She merely has vanished from Berlin once again.
“There are invisible walls all over this city.” (Heinz Krüger)
In 1990, Hilde Hoffmann (53) wants to sell the family house. Her son Matthias Hoffmann (35) is strictly against it, his sister Katharina Hoffmann (34), meanwhile a computer nerd, agrees to her mother’s plan.
It’s the time of Techno-Parties, demonstrations and the German reunification. After a Techno-Party Matthias and friends disturb Heinrich Müller on his rooftop, an acquaintance of Karl Hoffmann (64).
Matthias suggests to his mates to sell the house and afterwards squat in it. But it turns out difficult to sell. The reunification has changed the value of real estate in certain areas. Only one lady, Carola Roberts, seems to be interested. But Hilde, who got high together with her youngest son, Klaus Hoffmann (20), doesn’t make the best impression when she comes home. Klaus borrows money from Matthias for a new turntable.
To feel young, Karl, who lost his wife to cancer, spends a lot of time with Matthias’ friends Luka and Rüdiger. Heinrich Müller is irritated. Even more so, when he watches the young people throw stones from the roof during an anti-Bush-demonstration. Klaus gets caught by the police and is injured. To free him, Matthias throws a stone at a cop, who also gets injured seriously. They escape. Luka drives Klaus to hospital, where he is visited by his later girlfriend, Mareike. The cop dies shortly after and Matthias decides to escape to Paris and hide there.
Karl starts an affair with Siri Einstein, his secretary, whom he admires for her technical skills. In the meantime, Luka tells his friends that he wants to confess the cop-incident to the police. Klaus and Katharina threaten to throw him from the rooftop, but the appearance of Heinrich saves his life.
Hilde gets sentimental as she finally sells the house to Frau Roberts. When packing for moving day Klaus finds an old cap which used to belong to Rolando Pedro, the real father of Karl.
Matthias is now on his way to France with a Russian criminal whom he paid for the trip. They successfully pass the border. In Paris he meets some leftist contact persons who persuade him to commit murder against a “fascist cop”. In Berlin, a journalist interviews Heinrich without any result about Luka who had killed himself in the meantime.
The final scene: After sending Klaus a turntable from Paris, Matthias stands on a cliff in France, just like Katharina had dreamt before. He throws his gun away, heading for his next destination: New York? Buenos Aires? At the same time Mareike and Klaus kiss and Karl dies in Siri’s arms.
“We are not a family of regular citizens” (Katharina Hoffmann)
Hilde Hoffmann (78), Klaus Hoffmann (45) and Katharina Hoffmann (59) live together in a big house again. Katharina is now rich thanks to a computer program that she invented. Klaus has become a not really succesfull lawyer and has a son, Thomas Hoffmann (5) who however lives with his mother Mareike, who has a very bad relationship with Klaus's sister. Matthias Hoffmann (60) has seen the world and he is back in Berlin for the first time after 25 years. After his return, the family decides to have a dinner all together to celebrate the family reunion.
A presumptive cop arrives during the dinner asking Matthias to follow him. Klaus, worried, calls Katharina, who is late for dinner, telling her what happened. They decide to go to Dimitrij’, a Russian criminal who has protected their family while Matthias was away, hoping to get his help. However, once they arrive at Dimitrij’s, the “cop” appears again saying that he has kidnapped Matthias according to Dimitrij’s order to persuade Katharina to sell her computer programme to Dimitrij. After Katharina has signed the agreement, the three siblings come back home where Hilde, Thomas and Mareike are waiting for them. Finally, Katharina makes peace with Mareike.
“I’m used to not making a mess” (Matthias Hoffmann)