1 9 7 2 (UK)
6 x 45 minute episodes
Derek Jacobi starred as Diederich Hessling in this BBC2 adaptation of Heinrich Mann’s so-called prophetic novel of Germany in the first decade of the 20th century, Der Untertan.
The story followed Hessling’s career from his student days when he arrived from a provincial town to study in Berlin, narrowly obtaining a doctorate of chemistry before becoming a paper manufacturer, family patriarch, and eventually the most influential man in his small hometown.
Hessling’s inflexible ideals were often contradicted by his actions: he preached bravery but was a coward; he was the strongest proponent of the military but sought to be excused from his obligatory military service; his greatest political opponents were the proletarian Social Democrats, yet he used his influence to help send his hometown’s SPD candidate to the Reichstag parliament, in order to defeat his liberal competitors in business; he started vicious rumours against the latter and then dissociated himself from them; he preached and enforced Christian virtues upon others but lied, cheated, and regularly committed infidelity.
The role required Jacobi to act in two clearly contrasting styles and to switch from one to the other at the drop of the script.