The creators of ‘Dark’ are back, more enigmatic than ever, with ‘1899’

October 1899. On the eve of a new century, Europeans of all origins meet in London to embark on a steamer. Their goal: to migrate to the United States and start a new life in New York. But their American dream is compromised when they discover, on the high seas, another migrant ship, missing for several weeks.

A new puzzle to solve

With this barely disguised nod to the migration crisis currently taking place in Europe, the city of Winden and its nuclear power station, sets of the previous series by Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, seem very far away. However, we find in 1899 the mysterious and heavy atmosphere of Dark. An atmosphere carried by music by Ben Frostthe composer who had already worked on the first series of Friese and Odar.

We also recognize a familiar face, that of Andreas Pietschmann, in the skin of Eyk Larsen, scarred and alcoholic captain of the Kerberos, the ship on which the passengers travel. The actor embodied, in Dark, the aged version of Jonas. Another common point between the two series: the presence of strange technological gadgets and out of their time. Mechanisms for time travel, as in Dark ? Hard to say.

To be honest, The Pathfinder was only allowed to view the first three episodes of 1899. Perhaps so that no key twist is revealed to the public… Or perhaps to be kept in a situation of confusion where one appreciates at their true value the many and unfathomable enigmas of the story. Because where Dark and 1899 come together the most is in their writing. It must be said that their creators handle the art of intrigue and unexpected revelations to perfection. And they admit it themselves, their series is a real treasure hunt.

“It promises to be a fun puzzle for the publicBaran bo Odar told the magazine Deadline. We return to our mysterious roots! » To which his accomplice, Jantje Friese, added that “all the passengers on the boat are traveling with secrets that they don’t want to reveal. Once again, our history is built like a puzzle”.

By boarding the KerberosMaura Franklin hopes to find the trace of her brother, who disappeared on board another ship, the Prometheus.©Netflix

A puzzle where, from the beginning, everything is confusing. The rather slow narrative rhythm allows the directors to take the time to put down each clue. Or in any case, what we think are clues and which become an inexhaustible source of questions. Why is the symbol of the boat company, an inverted and crossed out triangle, present absolutely everywhere, even on the earrings of one of the passengers? Why is it the alchemical sign of earth, and not that of water – an inverted triangle, but not crossed out – when the whole plot takes place at sea?

What is this mysterious black pyramid discovered on the ghost ship? Why does each episode end with a song created in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s (we hear for example Jefferson Airplane, Deep Purple or Echo and the Bunnymen) when the story takes place at the end of the 19th century?e century ? And who is this man accompanied by a strange little green insect? Finally, do all these elements really matter for the rest of the story?

1,612 passengers, so many secrets

The questions jostle for our greatest pleasure. What is certain is that something bigger than anything imaginable is in the works. Because the links between the characters, at first sight less complex than in Dark, are actually narrower than one might think. It is first of all the differences between the 1,612 passengers that are obvious. As the protagonist, Maura Franklin (played by Emily Beecham, seen in Little Joe, The Pursuit of Love and cruella): “There is a whole universe in each of us. »

Doctor specializing in the brain, the young woman, assailed by inexplicable flashbacks – or dreams? – embark on the Kerberos in search of his brother, who disappeared on another ship, the Prometheus. The character bears witness to a first difference in treatment, that of gender.

Authorized to study medicine, but not to practice it, Maura also arouses a reproving interest in many of her companions on the crossing, being an independent woman, who travels alone. Passengers are also divided economically: they must respect the boundaries imposed by their respective classes. But, above all, it is their nationalities and their languages ​​that separate them.

On board of Kerberos, passengers have different origins, languages ​​and cultures. But they all have one goal: to leave Europe to start a new life in America.©Netflix

A rich French couple on an atrocious honeymoon, a Chinese mother and daughter pretending to be Japanese, a Spaniard hiding his homosexuality, a poor Danish family in third class, a Pole financing his trip by working in the engine room… All these Europeans in search of a better life have distinct cultures and speak different languages. The realism is so advanced that, a rare occurrence, each actor and actress speaks on screen in their mother tongue.

An extremely pleasant sense of detail and accuracy, and a non-negotiable requirement for directors. “Being true to cultures and languages ​​was really importantconfirms Jantje Friese to Deadline. We never wanted to have characters from different countries who all speak English. We wanted to explore this heart of Europe, where everyone comes from elsewhere and speaks a different language: it defines your culture and your behavior so much. »

Among these passengers who literally do not understand each other, similarities gradually appear. The most important being that they all seek to escape the secrets they hope to leave behind in Europe: the consequences of their actions, the pain of their dramas or the rejection of their identities. But, in the face of danger, it is impossible to hide his true face. When the crew of Kerberos discover the wreckage of Prometheus and realizes that it is empty – or almost – appearances are shattered. All the more so when a strange mist suddenly covers the ship and the dead inexplicably multiply on board. Lost in the middle of the ocean, none of them have an escape. Despite their differences, the characters are, quite literally, in the same boat.

Special effects at the height of the scenario thanks to the “Volume”

Everything leads to believe that the protagonists are, in a certain way, linked. First, the letters they all received, obviously sent by the same person. Then the assembly. When in one shot, Jérôme, a stowaway, is hit, it is Ramiro, a priest from the Iberian Peninsula, who wakes up with a start in the next shot, painfully rubbing his face. Plans also worthy of naturalistic paintings, magnified – even if the whole thing is a little dark – by special effects of high quality.

No wonder, when you know that the shots were taken in the studios of Babelsberg, in Germany, where the new LED technology, also called “Volume”, was used. No more green screen: the actors perform in a 420 square meter studio in front of a screen about seven meters high. The decor is projected there in real time, while the scene is shot. A process bringing us to the frontiers of reality, and that is the goal of this new production.

1899 was shot in part at the studio in Babelsberg, Germany, where the “Volume” was used. This new technology makes it possible to shoot in front of an LED screen, projecting the decor in real time.©Netflix

Cartography of a hidden world, 1899 plays with the limits of reality, whether supernatural or cerebral. If the allusion to the mystery of the Bermuda triangle is obvious – we speak of missing boats and panicking compasses –, the references to psychosensory hallucinations are not lacking. The captain and Maura are plagued with auditory or visual hallucinations, and the credits of the series are nothing less than a remix of the track White Rabbit of Jefferson Airplane. What disturbs the public even more: are the characters victims of forces that exceed them or are their brains playing tricks on them? One thing is certain, as for Darkthe resolution of 1899 is delightfully unpredictable.

The creators of ‘Dark’ are back, more enigmatic than ever, with ‘1899’