TV - Vienna Blood

The third series of the thrilling crime drama Vienna Blood is set to start on BBC Two on Wednesday 14th December. Read a short interview with the author of the original books, Frank Tallis ...

Press Release

Vienna Blood is set in 1900s Vienna: a hotbed of philosophy, science and art, where a clash of cultures and ideas play out in the city’s grand cafes and opera houses.

A brilliant young English doctor Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard) and Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt (Juergen Maurer) investigate a series of unusual and disturbing murders. Max’s extraordinary skills of perception and psychology and Oskar’s forceful tenacity lead them to solve some of Vienna’s most mysterious and deadly cases.

The first episode of the three feature length stories in the third season, sees Max and Oskar navigate the exclusive and beguiling world of high fashion.

With the discovery of a young seamstress murdered in a luxury fashion house, Max and Oskar begin to see that the glamour industry conceals dark and sinister truths.

To identify the killer, this case demands that Max contends with the nature of beauty and the murkier waters of sexual attraction. It’s a trail that will lead Max and Oskar from couture to an altogether more sinister world of exploitation and blackmail.

Written by acclaimed screenwriter Steve Thompson (Sherlock, Deep State, Leonardo), based on the best-selling Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis and filmed in English and on location in Vienna and Budapest, season three is directed by Academy Award® and Emmy® nominee Robert Dornhelm (Anne Frank: The Whole Story) and stars Matthew Beard (The Imitation Game, Dracula, Avenue 5) as Max Liebermann, and Juergen Maurer (Vorstadtweiber, Tatort) as Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt.

Vienna Blood puts Freudian analysis and a detective story together, are there similarities between the two fields?

The first person to acknowledge there was a similarity was Sigmund Freud. He wrote a paper in which he suggested that detectives might find psychoanalysis a useful tool. If you think about what psychoanalysis involves, it involves paying very close attention to clues following leads to find something that is hidden or concealed, and that concealed thing in psychoanalysis is usually a repressed memory. But this is exactly what a detective does, looks for clues, follows leads and finds something that is equally concealed: a perpetrator, a criminal.

And in fact, Freud was a great fan of detective fiction. There's a memoir written by one of his patients in which the patient says that they stopped and talked about literature. And the patient was expecting Freud to talk about Dostoyevsky and the classics and in fact, he spoke about Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle, and he seemed to show quite a lot of respect for the genre. He was a detective fan. He read Conan Doyle, he read Agatha Christie as well as the great classics of literature.

Are detective stories simply smart puzzles then?

People think of the detective genre as being quite formulaic and quite mechanical. And yet the detective stories that we remember and that are most distinctive are those that have a big central character. So, we remember Sherlock Holmes, we remember Poirot. I think that the plot is, if you like, a very necessary condition for a good detective story. But it's not sufficient. You really do need the character. You really do need the setting to make it complete and satisfying and I suppose what's distinctive about the Liebermann books, and the TV series, is the basis in psychology.

One thing that I find quite frustrating is the term psychological thriller, because it suggests that we’re going to read a thriller that’s full of psychology, whereas in reality, many thrillers have some psychology in but it's not terribly authentic, and I think that in the books and in the series, there is an attempt to import authentic psychoanalysis into the detective story.

What are the main themes of Vienna Blood?

There are probably two overarching themes to the series. The first is, anti-Semitism and the rise of a particular kind of German nationalism that eventually metamorphosed into the horrors of Nazism. There were lots of nationalists around in Freud's Vienna and lots of cults with some rather odd beliefs that actually Hitler was exposed to when he was down and out in Vienna and absorbed and eventually incorporated into his pernicious Nazi ideology. That's one of the overarching themes.

The second, and I think perhaps more interesting theme, is that Freud's Vienna was a pre-apocalyptic Vienna in the sense that it was edging towards the First World War. And the First World War was an absolute catastrophe. And they knew that they were heading towards some kind of catastrophe because the Habsburg empire was full of tensions, was fraying at the edges and there was a sense that something bad was coming. And the Viennese had a very curious response to it, in the sense that they were partly nostalgic looking to the past, partly revolutionary looking towards perhaps some new world, but mostly they behave in a kind of fairly irregular and counterintuitive fashion in terms of maybe drinking more champagne, having more balls, having more sexual liaisons and generally sort of partying to the end. And I suppose that curious atmosphere of a world that is approaching an apocalyptic end, and how people respond to that atmosphere was very influential while I was writing the books.

Why was Vienna specifically interesting in this period?

Between 1890 and 1914, Vienna was the world's preeminent creative powerhouse. It was the world's leading city in terms of invention and creativity. I mean it was quite extraordinary. In every area of human endeavour the Viennese were producing revolutionary, cutting edge ideas. We see revolutions in thinking, in art, in music, in science and of course in the psychology and neurology with Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis.

Vienna was a remarkable city. Every now and then through history, you find a city that excels. So you could look at, say, Florence in the Renaissance, or perhaps you could even say swinging London in the 1960s. But Vienna was one of those extraordinary examples where a city just illuminates the world with ideas and creativity.

And it's an interesting question: Why was it Vienna at that particular time that was a creative powerhouse? And there are many theories, many ideas, as to why Vienna became preeminent. One of the factors might have been the coffee house culture. Vienna's coffeehouses were places where people met, exchanged ideas from all walks of life, and it was a unique atmosphere. One of the factors that may have influenced that was curiously a housing shortage. Lots of intellectuals of the time were hard up, they had a bed for the night but didn't necessarily have anywhere to go to avoid the cold. And so they went to Vienna's coffeehouses where they talk, exchange ideas, and this was supposed to be very important for the cultivation of a forward-looking and inventive culture where many ideas from different disciplines were being swapped.

Where did the inspiration for the Liebermann family come from?

I suppose the most characteristic feature of the Liebermann family is that they are Jews. They are Viennese Jews in the books and English Jews in the TV series. They are an immigrant family. I wasn't really very conscious of this when I was writing the books, but perhaps on reflection I can see that there is a connection, I'm not Jewish, but I do come from an immigrant family. Frank Tallis isn't my real name. I have a much more foreign sounding name. And I suppose the immigrant experience is something that is very similar wherever you come from, and immigrant families are perhaps more similar than different and have similar preoccupations. The anxiety about fitting in, a certain amount of ambivalence about where you came from, a certain amount of self-consciousness. All of those things are commonalities.

I suppose to some extent, my own personal experience of coming from essentially an immigrant family seeped into the writing, although that’s something I only realised on reflection. It wasn't something I was necessarily conscious of at the time of writing. My real name is Francesco de Nato Napolitano which doesn't really fit on the side of a book, so I changed it and anglicised it. I don't have an English drop of blood in my body. I’m 100% Southern Italian.

Is Max Liebermann based on anyone in particular?

I read a great deal of the literature associated with Freud's Vienna when I was writing the books, and I suppose he reflects a particular type that you find in the literature. There were many intense young men with romantic entanglements spending a lot of time in Vienna's famous coffeehouses, talking about philosophy, life, the universe and everything. There's a particular character type.

In terms of any personal resonances, I trained as a clinical psychologist and saw patients for 20 years. Inevitably there are some aspects of how Max behaves clinically and how I behaved. I'm talking about very small details. After a long day of seeing patients, one gets tired and I would often do this [Frank leans on his hand]. And so, in the book there are descriptions of the way Max tilts his head into his hand and things like that. And I suppose the very small details of the experience of sitting in front of a patient get into the book and I hope also are translated into the series to a greater or lesser extent. I suppose the only other resemblance between me and Max Lieberman is that, we both play the piano, and like sitting in cafes eating cake!

The third series of Vienna Blood starts on BBC Two on 14th December at 9pm to 10.30pm

Images - BBC

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