Busy Ines
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Murder, She Watched

1/22/2014

I confess. Friends persuaded me to watch an episode of Tatort with them last Sunday. Tatort (means ‘crime scene’ in German) is a crime series for television, which is produced mainly in Germany, but also in Austria and Switzerland, and watched by millions of people since its birth in the 1970s. The Germans/Austrians/Swiss won’t believe their eyes when they will read that it was my first time of enjoying this institution of the German-speaking world. Inspectors, I can explain.

In communist Albania, crime – like sex – didn’t exist. There are people who still believe that by opening up to the West, Albanians ‘let all the vices in’. Italy, Germany et al opened Albania’s box and out they came: adultery, violence, abuse, prostitution, drugs and all the other typical foreign stuff. As you know, the original sin had happened outside our borders. So, I was not so much into detective or mystery novels as a kid, although I knew they existed. Well, I knew and loved Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gadget, but they were part of the realm of fantasy for me, just as I was under the illusion that David Copperfield’s story could only have happened in that strange place called England. Crime on TV was non-existent, maybe also because TV sets were non-existent. Still, there must have been some crime novel aficionados in Tirana who, I believe, have all become police inspectors. 

As far as I remember, the only foreign crime series that was shown in the 1980s was THE ONE AND ONLY that caused the few people who owned TV sets nervous breakdowns, as everyone from near and afar gathered in their apartments to watch it: La Piovra, the Italian miniseries about the Mafia. We called it after its main character, (commissario) Cattani, who was played by the mesmerising and hypnotic Michele Placido. I was a child at the time, but I remember the great soundtrack (by Morricone!) and frenzy surrounding the film with my female relatives swooning over the mysterious Cattani, ‘a real man’, as they used to say. I wonder if there was actually anyone who watched this movie for the crime aspect. 

After the fall of the regime, people were finally allowed to read and watch whatever they liked, which went out of control. Porn was played in the morning as a regular programme; TV series and films were shown illegally on every channel and basically nobody cared for labels, child protection or broadcasting rights. Simultaneously, what we wrongly called democracy caused a deep crisis and armed conflicts in whole Albania in the 1990s and we saw crime and violence on a daily basis, both on the street and in the news. You will understand that only a few people showed interest in solving virtual murders. 

I remember watching Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote once on Italian TV. Albanians watched Italian TV pretty excessively in the ‘90s, which explains why most programmes of today’s Albanian TV are perfect copies of Italian ones. Anyway, I watched Lansbury with her cute-old-lady face (I was a teenager, so she was Stone Age to me) and thought how soft and peaceful crime must be somewhere else that this nice lady could solve cases. 

Thus, history might explain my aversion for representations of crime and violence, but it might also be that I’m just not into this genre, although watching Tatort with friends was thoroughly enjoyable.

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