People with obscure gender assignments are still rather uncanny in the Sunday night thriller, if they are allowed to play at all. They either get into their blood pretty quickly and are mourned cheaply. Or, as is usually the case, they are turned into monsters that work through some trauma by stabbing or shooting.
That is gradually changing. And it changes, interestingly enough, especially in the East German “police call”.
The weightless nonchalance with which Vincent Ross, the rather gender-fluid, apparently boundlessly empathetic investigator with the wonderful flood suits, the adventurous boots and the kajal around his eyes, prances through the Brandenburg-Polish border police, the almost carefree normality that his being in the tendentially structural conservative The police system is allowed to have, the floating part of the joke that repeatedly touches on gender relations, playing with gender clichés - that is a real liberation on an otherwise traumatic Sunday.
With "Daniel A.", the urgently needed narrative of the everyday life of all non-binary fellow human beings continues in the Rostock "Polizeiruf". However, the superficial story of the new case, like that from Brandenburg, is that of a change of commissioner.
Bukov, the street dog detective with the rather opaque attitude to rules and laws, has said goodbye to Russia. König (Anneke Kim Sarnau), Bukow's colleague and last lover, is still there, more insufferable and grumpy than ever. And then, of all people, Melly Böwe (Lina Beckmann) comes rolling in from the west with a rusty mobile to replace Bukow. She is Bukow's half-sister, single parent, pragmatic, kind-hearted, with a penchant for baking delicious cake rolls for world and commissariat peace.
The misogynistic rest of the Rostock murder and manslaughter department looks expectantly at how the slippery and the biting meet. They place bets on the start and outcome of the first cat war and no longer understand the world of Sunday evening crime thrillers when – apart from the dalliances – it doesn't materialize. And König and Böwe, with gently extended claws, realize what they might have in each other, as the female version of the Good Cop/Bad Cop model, so to speak.
In a way, that's just the packaging of the actual story. It's less of a crime story than a social story. And she goes like this. One night in Rostock, a young teacher lies dead in a parking lot. In front of a bar that is not very subtly called "Knock out". She had a date there.
We saw her. She was fine. Then she ran into a guy she was actually through with. But not with her. Then she was dead. And her date saw it.
Could be over quickly. The witness goes to the police, he looks smart, a slim blond guy. And the manslayer goes to jail. The witness's name is Daniel Adamek. The gravitational center of the whole case is that his real name is Daniela Adamek and that he is a trans man and that no one is allowed to know anything about it.
Benjamin Hessler, who wrote a fabulously sensitive screenplay, and director Dustin Loose Daniel follow without any overly enlightening tone (now let's show German living rooms what it's like to be a trans person) and without using any form of voyeurism through all the inner turmoil he is in as a non-outed trans man in the transformation phase.
Daniela's transit room where she becomes Daniel is an old camper. We see her sitting there. And transform. Although Daniel knows he is a witness, he is also a suspect. The pressure is great. The one Daniel makes himself, the one the police make, the one his father makes for him.
He's also a police officer, a single parent, Daniel's sister had a child when she was 15, her nerves are on edge, and in the police station the father is already seen as someone who doesn't have his children under control. Daniel has to stay Daniela.
Hessler and Loose interweave the threads of the detective and the transgender thread, the subplots about stalking and love that shouldn't be what it actually is, into a remarkably relaxed portrait of a society in transition.
Nevertheless, nothing would have happened with this film if the television god hadn't sent Jonathan Perleth to the casters. He's a trans man himself. At the time of filming, he had just started his testosterone therapy. He's amazed today, he said, even at how he was when he was Daniel A.
The fact that he himself is what Daniel is, so he knows what he's doing, what's happening to Daniel, is of course a good thing. However, the fact that Jonathan Perleth is also a great actor makes “Daniel A.” a Sunday night thriller with a classic format.