A last round

…then it’s closing time. At the end of the night, when the air’s thick with the scent of beer and smoke, when all the candles are burned to a stub, time slows to a crawl and the night’s last revelry seems to take place outside of our normal timeline. Here, on the bedrock of Berlin’s trendy Neukölln district, newcomers seeking self-actualization meet with failed creatives. The conversations take a turn towards unrealized dreams, financial need, and towards that old philosophical question, the meaning of life. Behind the bar stands “Kalle,” who often drinks away his money troubles and his disappointment at his failed acting career, along with the memory of the night before. Behind the bar with him is Gwendolyn, who enters the late-night constellation hesitantly, but finds a source of inspiration for her novel. The Last Order is a reverse chronological of a cycle of forgetting and reconstructing this last hour of the night. The stories of the bar’s regulars unfold over the course of the series. Kalle’s faithful buddy Piet, for example, whose car dealership isn’t 100% legal, and who falls in love, of course, with Heiner, a neighborhood cop. Then there’s the single-mother Martina, who convinces Kalle to take a roll in her ragtag play, and Boris, a permanent tourist from Cologne who’s made himself a nice little nest on Gwendolyn’s couch. Then in the corner there’s Harry, who sits in his in the corner night after night, and knows the bar better than anyone else, as he’s been sitting there through multiple generations of barkeepers.

Fiction and Reality

The last order is a fictional film comprised of real material. The bar isn’t a set– it’s a real bar, and after we finished a long day of shooting behind drawn curtains, we cleared out and the drinking started. We’re experienced behind the bar ourselves. Kalle is played by Jan Lemke, who’s a professional actor as well as the owner of the bar where we shot.

A Bar in Neukölln

We’re interested in the bar as a microcosm of the metropolis, one that accepts everyone seeking refuge from reality. The bar is located in Schillerkiez, a neighborhood in the borough of Neukölln, where we’ve lived and worked for years. Contradictions clash with particular force here– located directly adjacent to the former Tempelhof Airport, the once bourgeoise neighborhood fell into neglect. The only people who lived next to the airport were those who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere, and many buildings were abandoned. After the airport was converted into a public park, though, investors started to snatch up real estate, rents rose at a record pace, and countless bars, galleries, and restaurants opened up next to the convenience stores and dive bars.

Alcohol and Forgetting

The series portrays both the recently arrived and the neighborhood’s old bar flies. They’re all united by the gap between the life they dream of and the usually precarious reality of their everyday lives– well, by that, and by alcohol. The latter leads to some closeness, some jokes, and some fights, and with its help dreams of a different, glorious future come possible. The gaze turns set and languid under its influence, and in the end this tendency to drink often stands in the way of the barflies’ dreams. The narrative experiment that the series carries out is motivated by Kalle’s alcoholism– and the gaps in memory that come with it, especially in the last hours of the night, when the series takes place. That’s why the series is told in reverse chronological order. Every episode goes a step towards the past that Kalle has long since repressed.

Work and Money

Not least of all, we are interested in the bar as an “economy:” as a place where people work and sea, where money changes hand for consumer goods. Economic and private motives are often intermingled in the relationships between the characters. As far as The Last Order is concerned: The series was produced without any financial support. Neither public funds nor corporate sponsorship were available. [I don’t like available here… in German or in English; you should try to make this sound like a positive…] This was only possible thanks to the tireless creative energies of the actors, sound crew, as well as of countless friends and further assistants. Asking for this support without being able to offer financial compensation was anything other than self-evident. It makes us even happier that those who stood by our sides took part so enthusiastically and were able to make the project into their own. We are incredibly grateful and very happy.

How it sounds

Musicians produced a unique soundtrack for every episode. Almost all of the musicians responsible come from the environment of the bar. In many episodes, they also appear in supporting roles and play live.