One of the breakout films at the 2021 Berlinale was Dominik Graf’s “Fabian: Going to the Dogs,” a three-hour, Weimar Germany–era bildungsroman that’s way more exhilarating than such a distinction might sound on paper. This sprawling, hedonistic epic stars Tom Schilling in a career-best performance as a raffish idealist in 1930s Berlin. Exclusive to IndieWire, watch the trailer premiere for the film below. Directed by “Beloved Sisters” filmmaker Dominik Graf, “Fabian” opens in theaters from Kino Lorber February 11.
Jakob Fabian (Schilling, star of “A Coffee in Berlin”) is a 32-year-old war veteran back in the city and rattled by PTSD, which is somewhat keeping his literary aspirations at bay as he works by day as an ad man for a cigarette company. Everything is unstable, so Fabian frequents the debauched cabarets lining Berlin’s underbelly at night with his wealthy and debauched friend Labude (Albrecht Schuch). But Jakob’s pessimistic attitude finds a challenge in the beautiful and confident Cornelia (Saskia Rosendahl, who starred with Schilling in “Never Look Away”), with whom he falls in love. But soon after, Jakob falls victim to the layoffs sweeping Berlin, submerging him in depression as Cornelia’s acting career takes flight thanks to her wealthy patron, in an arrangement that Fabian struggles to accept as the world falls apart around him.
Graf adapts the film from Erich Kästner’s 1931 novel, “Fabian: The Story of a Moralist,” set in the crumbling world of a post-World War I Germany on the cusp of the next great war.
From IndieWire’s Berlin Film Festival review from 2021: “‘Fabian’ is fascinating aesthetically because it unfolds like avant-garde jazz, with contrapuntal images functioning like split screens, especially in the movie’s rather harrowingly experimental first hour, and discordant editing from Claudia Wolscht can feel terrifying and expressionistic, especially as Fabian’s war-related trauma nightmares start introducing frightening, deformed, monstrous faces and other visual jolts. Everything has the glow of a fading orange sunrise, and the movie’s jittery hedonistic rhythms start to settle into something calmer… Graf makes ‘Going to the Dogs’ an unpredictable visual experience, bracingly experimental for a 68-year-old filmmaker who hasn’t run out of gas.”