“Dark”: The first German Netflix series is looking for horror in the province

July 7, 2020 by No Comments

Two teenagers talk to each other who happen to meet at night during an apocalyptic storm at a lonely bus stop on the country road to the (fictional) town of Winden: “What would you wish for if everything started again?” – “A world without winds.” – “To a world without winds!” It is a moment of understanding between two young people who do not know each other well, who are of different ages, a rebellious boy and a rather brave girl. But they share the hatred of this little place where they have to grow up, this restricted world in which everyone knows everyone and from which there seems to be no escape until you finally grow up and have the school behind you. It’s a feeling that many young people share, who grow up somewhere in the province and dream of the wide world. However, the external circumstances are unusual, because not everywhere in the world do such thunderstorms have birds that fall massively dead from the sky.

Setting

Winden is in the first German Netflix production “Dark” is a place that, on the one hand, is prototypical for the German province, with its location on the edge of a dark forest and the outstanding nuclear power plant. On the other hand, it is also a place that seems to hold many secrets, where strange, threatening things have been happening for decades. Now it seems to be that time again, because a few days ago a little boy disappeared. This tears open old wounds for the town’s residents, because something like this happened 33 years ago: In 1986, the little Mads, brother of Ulrich Nielsen ( Oliver Masucci ), who now works as a detective at the local police station, disappeared with him School principal Katharina ( Jördis Triebel) is married. The boy has still not been found. While Ulrich and his colleagues are investigating the current situation and the city’s parents are expressing their fear at a school meeting that a child kidnapper and possibly murderer can deal with their community, some of the students wander through the forest with flashlights at night. It is reminiscent of classics like “Five friends”, but above all to the international Netflix success “Stranger Things”. It won’t be the only déjà vu related to the 1980s retro mystery series.

At the entrance to a mysterious cave, Mikkel ( Daan Lennard Liebrenz), the youngest son of Ulrich and Katharina Nielsen. If the police had previously only found an empty Raider packaging during their search in the forest – a first disturbing indication that times long past could play an important role in solving the case – they come across the body of a boy at the end of the opening sequence. Only: It cannot be either of the two youngest missing persons, since he has obviously been dead for a long time. It takes a while to understand who is in “Dark” who is, how the complex relationships and love relationships of the numerous protagonists are linked. At the point where you think you have roughly seen through it, the series suddenly makes a daring leap in time in 1986, in which we get to know the younger versions of many figures. You have to dare to do something like this, in the third episode of a new series, to send the newly introduced ensemble to the substitute bench, with the exception of one actor, and replace it with younger (and mostly lesser known) actors in the same roles. And it will probably not be the only such change, since roles with the suffix 1953 appear in the cast list on the Internet. First of all, “Dark” uses the somewhat worn-out 80s subject in a successful way, this time showing typical German features of this era. In addition to a commercial for the chocolate bar already mentioned, this is perhaps the second best-known Nena song “Somehow, somewhere, sometime”, whose text takes on a whole new meaning in this context. Already in the third episode of a new series, the ensemble that had just been introduced was sent to the substitute bench, with the exception of one actor, and replaced by younger (and mostly less well-known) actors in the same roles. And it will probably not be the only such change, since roles with the suffix 1953 appear in the cast list on the Internet. First of all, “Dark” uses the somewhat worn-out 80s subject in a successful way, this time showing typical German features of this era. In addition to a commercial for the chocolate bar already mentioned, this is perhaps the second best-known Nena song “Somehow, somewhere, sometime”, whose text takes on a whole new meaning in this context. Already in the third episode of a new series, the ensemble that had just been introduced was sent to the substitute bench, with the exception of one actor, and replaced by younger (and mostly less well-known) actors in the same roles. And it will probably not be the only such change, since roles with the suffix 1953 appear in the cast list on the Internet. First of all, “Dark” uses the somewhat worn-out 80s subject in a successful way, this time showing typical German features of this era. In addition to a commercial for the chocolate bar already mentioned, this is perhaps the second best-known Nena song “Somehow, somewhere, sometime”, whose text takes on a whole new meaning in this context.

Swiss director Baran bo Odar first fell through his atmospheric thriller drama in 2010 “The Last Silence” with Ulrich Thomsen, which was also about missing boys. Even then, you could see a great talent for pictures and moods in the dense staging style. In 2014 Odar and his co-author Jantje Friese had their greatest success with the hacking thriller “Who Am I – No System Is Safe” with Elyas M’Barek. Now both are responsible as authors and executive producers of this first German Netflix series, which besides “Babylon Berlin” is one of the largest prestige projects of the domestic series year. And the expectations are met: “Dark” is very exciting, scary from the start, with atmospheric images and a thundering, unusually mixed film music by Ben Frost ( “Fortitude – A place like no other” ). In addition, there is an excellent ensemble of German actors, which you sometimes see far too rarely in series: In addition to Jördis Triebel (the patrol officer from “KDD – long-term criminal service” ), for example, also Karoline Eichhorn as a brittle criminal officer and in a supporting role with Angela Winkler one of the most famous actresses of the New German Film of the 1970s, known as Katharina Blum. Above all, Odar, who staged the episodes himself, remained true to his directorial style. So there are always moments that come up Remember “The Last Silence”.

Strange things are going on in the village of Winden

In terms of craftsmanship and acting, “Dark” can easily keep up with international series productions, but at the same time it serves typical German topics: it already draws on the threat of the forest  “Weinberg”, the mini series from TNT Serie, the nuclear power plant, which not only dominates the small town of Winden optically, does not seem to be as sure as its operators never tire of emphasizing, and it is no coincidence that the second period of action is located just after Chernobyl, just now also avoided the fear of nuclear radiation in Germany. As with any mystery series, whether “Dark” is a big hit depends above all on how credible the authors will develop the plot in the further episodes (and eventually resolve it). The first episodes are very promising.

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