Berlin is known internationally for its electronic music scene that plays out every night in dozens of clubs across the city. So it makes perfect sense that Berlin Calling is set in the German capital city. What makes the film a little different is that the lead character, DJ Ickarus is portrayed by first time actor and actual DJ Paul Kalkbrenner, who also contributes to the soundtrack.
The film follows the up and coming DJ Ickarus and his girlfriend/manager Mathilde as they enjoy the fruits of his success: jetting around Europe, drugs, music and excess. As Ickarus finishes work on his new album he plays it for the head of his record label. Unfortunately, she’s not as impressed with the work as he is. The rejection sets Ickarus into a tailspin that sees him increasing his drug and alcohol consumption while his relationship with Mathilde becomes rocky. After partying a bit too hard, Ickarus finds himself in a psychiatric hospital but won’t submit to treatment without a fight. Through a long process in and out of the hospital, Ickarus finds new inspiration and creates a new album (the amusingly titled “Titten, Techno, und Trompeten”).
Berlin Calling has a raw, realistic feel and the film feels remarkably authentic. Kalkbrenner does well in his debut acting roll with a strong and believable performance. Despite the techno topic, this isn’t a feel-good party film. In fact, it’s rather dark as it watches one man’s downfall and the rise of drug-induced psychosis all while set in a hospital.