German film-maker Aljoscha Pause has scored a winner with Inside Borussia Dortmund, but a bit of added time would not have gone amiss.
Whilst most documentaries covering a football club pick things up either before or at the start of a new season, this one opens at Dortmund’s winter training camp in Marbella halfway through the 2018-19 campaign.
Filming also coincides with a downturn in their fortunes, and the series ends up tinged with misery as the club’s players and coaches keep blowing their chances.
Given that Dortmund ended up finishing second to perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich by just two points, joining them at the season’s midpoint feels a bit odd.
That criticism aside, Inside Borussia Dortmund gets off to an impactful start as team boss Lucien Favre explains his footballing philosophy and sets up how the series will continue.
It is an interview-led production by Pause, who is best known best in his country for creating Trainer!, a documentary that follows three German football managers during one season.
Pause was born in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, which is home to BVB, and much of his other work has been on the club or based around individuals such as Jurgen Klopp and Mario Gotze.
Inside Borussia Dortmund strikes a decent balance between showing the inner workings of a major sporting institution and also promoting it to a new audience
UK football fans will want to know how this series compares to others they might have seen such as All or Nothing: Manchester City and Sunderland Till I Die, and in truth there are a couple of things that could have been done better overall.
Non-German speakers have to rely on subtitles, but this did not spoil the experience for me, especially as the interviews were brilliantly shot.
It felt as if the subjects were at put an ease by their questioner, and that each interview was done with the purpose of adding to the sporting drama being played out on the screen.
As well as players, coaches and club officials, the series also features a couple of journalists who know the club inside out and clearly care about its fans and their region, providing context not necessarily shared by those on the inside.
The CEO’s words sound rather callous, especially considering all the issues that footballers have with mental health these days
Inside Borussia Dortmund strikes a decent balance between showing the inner workings of a major sporting institution and also promoting it to a new audience.
Each episode features history lessons about the club, although these do not sit that well with this production, particularly if you know Dortmund, plus just four parts feels very short compared to other series in a similar vein.
It is informative to see how the club acted in the aftermath of the bomb attack on their team coach in April 2017, and eye-opening to hear the thoughts of CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.
He recalls: “So we had a big clear-out; perhaps we needed to do that a year earlier if we had realised. But then I’m sure we’d have been accused of scaremongering, of dumping players who were victims of a bomb attack two months previously. At the end of the day, we couldn’t find a better solution, because there is no blueprint. No club can claim ever to have experienced this.”
His words sound rather callous, especially considering all the issues that footballers have with mental health these days, but his honesty also feels likes a bold stroke.
Unlike other club-based series, Inside Borussia Dortmund focuses less on the team manager, with more emphasis on Watke, sporting director Michael Zorc and other big names behind the scenes, possibly to the detriment of Favre and his players.
With that all being said, even a non-Dortmund fan would surely agree that the series deftly explores the inner workings of the German giant. There’s no getting away from the issue that it picks the story of their season rather late, but overall it bears comparison with the best of its type.
Documentary poster courtesy of amazon.co.uk. For more about Inside Borussia Dortmund, click here.