Historical spy drama, thriller
8 episodes of 45’
At the Hungarian Sea, the long hot summer of ’86 slowly brings the Cold War to the boil. A hardened Stasi agent faces off against a young reform Communist from East Germany, engaging in increasingly intense psychological warfare, only to realize that his target is onto him and employing reverse tactics to fight back. The agent resorts to bringing his own daughter into the game, but at the same time he is preparing to defect his family to the West in the face of the rigorous surveillance.
BERNDT REIDER is one of the best agents in the elite Stasi unit codenamed the Balaton Brigade, a team tasked with observing East German holidaymakers as they meet their relatives from west of the Iron Curtain by the sun-kissed shores of the Hungarian lake. He forges an uneasy alliance with his local counterpart, NEMERE, whose responsibility is to keep tabs on the East Germans employed in Hungary.
The duo’s focus is on working a very special target, WERNER BAHN, a financial genius and reform Communist, whose long-term goal is feared to be the ousting of General Secretary Honecker and the subsequent opening up of the East German market. Reider introduces Nemere to the broadly used Stasi method of Zersetzung, or “decomposition”, a process of ruthless psychological warfare against a subject intended to destroy them mentally by subtly manipulating their environment and relationships.
Bahn is enjoying summer by the lake with his new partner and his son from a previous marriage. He is also preparing for a crucial business meeting with a local manufacturer of sparkling wine and potential customers from Russia and the US. It is now that Reider and his team ramp up their Zersetzung, causing a deep rift between Bahn and his lover. All the same, the Stasi man gradually perceives that they are being duped: it becomes obvious that Bahn is aware of their tactics and is only pretending to be affected by them.
In the meantime, Nemere discovers that one of the other East German families in their zone just happens to be Reider’s ex-wife and their children, who are holidaying at a lakeside campsite. This is a blatant disregard of compliance. Nemere discreetly forces Reider to prove his loyalty. He must use his own daughter to get close to Bahn’s son so they can put the squeeze on their target from a different angle. Reider, however, is secretly formulating plans of his own – to sneak into the West along with his only seemingly estranged family.
Emotions rage as the spy games reach fever pitch and Nemere and Reider are faced with the fact that they are in way over their heads – for the purported business meeting between Bahn, the Americans and the Soviets turns out to be a trilateral espionage summit to plot the end of Socialism as they know it. With his daughter falling for Bahn’s uber-Communist son, Reider has to desperately improvise...
As ideologies believed to have been consigned to the dustbin return to haunt the present with a vengeance, it is increasingly vital that we deal with our recent past in a way that is simultaneously surprising, thought-provoking and entertaining.
In the present, the things we believe in seem pivotal – yet in only a few years, they become passé or downright anachronistic. Who are we when we shed our ideologies? What happens when everything you fight for and have built your entire life around becomes meaningless? BALATON BRIGADE – a unique take on the spy drama – deals with these crucial questions, showing the audience a world where the warm breeze and lakeside intrigues provide a backdrop to one of the cruelest phenomena in recent history. Satan in Speedos, Lucifer on a sun lounger – the Balaton Brigade had thousands of casual agents providing intel on apparently innocent holidaymakers and probing their most intimate details, ostensibly to fight the enemies of one of the most pernicious terror states in the Eastern Bloc.
As totalitarianism rears its ugly head in our region once again, it is imperative to revisit its history –underneath the fun surface in a serious way.