A Future Berlin in Mute

Duncan Jones shows his version of Berlin in his last movie on Netflix

In a future Berlin, an Amish bartender works in a bar with his girlfriend, and that is the story behind Netflix’s almost hit called Mute. Directed by Duncan Jones, Mute shows a Berlin in 2052 that looks and feels like similar to the city where the director’s father, David Bowie, lived in the 1970s.

In this future Berlin from Duncan Jones, there are still American soldiers on patrol on the streets and the currency is a weird version of Deutschmarks that are printed with the face of Angela Merkel and David Hasselhoff. But even though this is Berlin, the TV Tower is gone, and the Berlin Wall isn’t there anymore.

But the skyline is the biggest difference in the future Berlin. It seems like the city planners relaxed and decided to go with skyscrapers everywhere. There are also neon signs illuminating the streets and it almost feels like a dystopian Tokyo or a future Dubai. In 30 years, Berlin Mitte will be a glowing forest of buildings. At least in Duncan Jones version of the German capital.

But back to the movie story. The Amish bartender in mute because he had an accident in a lake when he was a child. Since his family is averse to technology, he never went through the corrective surgery that could heal him. There are American surgeons that work for local gangsters and one of them dreams about returning to the United States but he doesn’t have the right documentation since he deserted the Army. His hope is to get the visa he needs from gangsters and move. His partner has the visa but he is a pedophile that likes to live in Berlin. When the bartender’s girlfriend disappears, he goes deep into the underground world of a future Berlin. This is the story of Mute and I’m still not sure if you should spend your time watching it or just leave it on your Wishlist and never come back to it.

Mute is somehow disappointing on a lot of levels. Some of the actors don’t seem to reflect the characters they are representing but the soundtrack is excellent, and the cinematography makes it looks like Berlin is a dystopian future city. Too bad the storyline doesn’t go anywhere, and the Amish bartender is a character that doesn’t allow much love. In the end, Mute is a movie that I would love to like, but I cannot do it.

Either way, enough about the story of Mute and let’s focus on the future Berlin of this movie.

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One of the locations that appear in Mute is Kottbusser Tor and it’s Kremanski Cafe. This is where the mute bartender meets with one of the American surgeons. This ground level storefront is a part of the Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum that was first opened back in 1974.

The idea behind this project was the upgrade and clean a seedy part of what was then West Berlin but it failed its unspoken goal to scare away the immigrant population that lived there. It didn’t work at all and, nowadays, more than 70% of the apartments there are occupied by non-germans. In Mute, this building at Kottbusser Tor is brought to a next level with twice its height which would make it one of the tallest buildings in Kreuzberg.

In the Berlin underworld where the mute bartender goes investigating his girlfriend disappearance, most of the action happens in a future version of Checkpoint Charlie. This new Checkpoint Charlie is a multi-level red light district with all the shady characters that come with it. But the footage wasn’t captured in the original location.

Everything happens inside a Cold War era power plant known as Kraftwerk Mitte that can be found at Köpenicker Straße. It used to generate electricity in East Berlin back in 1964 and it was shut down in 1997. Today it’s used as a beautiful event venue and it’s home to the famous electronic music club called Tresor.

Another location from a future Berlin that appears on Netflix’s Mute is the ICC also known as the Internationales Congress Centrum that is located in Charlottenburg. This brutalist construction looks more like a spaceship than a building and every time that I cycle past it; I keep looking at all the details and how bizarre this architecture project is.

In Mute’s, the ICC appears as a shopping mall from 2052 but there isn’t anything there since this building has been unused since 2014 due to asbestos contamination. There were even rumors about its demolition but Berlin’s Senate decided to invest 200 million euros to save it. But I have no idea about what is going to happen there.

Checkpoint Charlie

Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum

Internationales Congress Centrum

Kraftwerk Mitte

Mute is a movie that shows a future Berlin that seems to be the most interesting element of the movie for me. Duncan Jones seems to want to create a noir futuristic movie that failed to accomplish anything. Too bad since I had a lot of hope for this movie.

Duncan Jones Mute on Netflix

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