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The makers of ‘Dark’ return with ‘1899’

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The new Netflix series revolves around passengers on a ship who hope to escape their dark past but become victims of a nightmare.

The makers of 'Dark' return with '1899'
The makers of ‘Dark’ return with ‘1899’
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Like the previous series “Dark” presented by the duo of Jo Baran Bo Oder and Jantje Fries, “1899” is full of mystery. Netflix’s first German-language hit series “Dark” left fans speculating about three thrilling seasons before coming to an end in 2020. Now the couple’s new offering was shot primarily in a studio in the city of Potsdam and was released on Netflix on November 17.

Set against the backdrop of the late 19th century, the series “1899” revolves around a group of people emigrating from Europe to the New World on board the Kerberos. Their journey takes an unpleasant turn when they encounter Prometheus. This is a ship, which disappeared without a trace a few months ago.

What happened to Prometheus? Where are the nearly 1500 people on board? And the passengers of the Kerberos, and at least is its captain hidden? All these questions are not immediately answered in this drama series.

Even the actors were kept in the dark about certain aspects of the play during the shoot. “Bo and Jantje told me about so many themes, so many different layers and things that are in my character’s subconscious,” says actress Emily Beecham, who played the lead role in the series. But I was also constantly asking them questions.

For anyone who wants a little clue to solve the mystery, a suggestion is not to use the “skip intro” option. “We’re huge fans of the title sequences,” Baran Bo Oder, who directed all eight episodes of the first season, told DW. The title sequence is a promise that draws the viewer in.”

The introduction to “1899” has it all. The animated sequence shows the ships as well as the characters’ faces and defining moments in their lives flowing into each other to the tune of the Jefferson Airplane song, “White Rabbit.” According to the director of the series, “1899” makes it clear from the start that nothing is as it seems. Also, he says, the opening has an important message for the rest of the series: “Watch closely, or you’ll miss something.”

Death quickly descends on Kerberos. There are also hallucinations (or are they flashbacks?), inexplicable weather phenomena and a growing sense among the passengers that the Prometheus would have been better off left to its fate in the Atlantic. “It’s such a mysterious, fascinating, really compelling show,” says actor Andreas Pietsman, already known to “Dark” fans as time traveler Jonas Kahnwald. In “1899,” he plays veteran Kerberos captain Ike Larson, who is shown struggling with a severe trauma.

Miguel Bernardio, who plays the role of a rich traveler in the series, says that this trauma actually affects all passengers on Kerberos. It doesn’t matter their country of origin or class of travel, they are all united by a dark past. Whether due to crime or tragic loss, all of the main characters are at “a very difficult place in their lives”. The actor added that he hopes to escape from the place.

But it quickly becomes clear that trying to run away from the past results in hopelessness. The encounter with Prometheus gradually brings out the various secrets of the travelers. In the second installment of the series, a traveler observes seagulls circling overhead and says, “Even birds have their prisons. They cannot escape who they are. And neither do we.”

An adventure in 10 languages

A unique feature of “1899” is the different languages ​​in the series. People from all over the world come together on the immigrant ship, embodying an international cast. They use their mother tongue in most of the conversation. Viewers of the original language series with subtitles will hear German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Polish, Danish, Norwegian, Cantonese and Japanese.

Some travelers can communicate in English. But even in these scenes, there are always moments when they revert to their mother tongue to express their deepest desires or fears. Even knowing that the other person does not understand them.

“It was great to write scenes that show people actually talking to each other but still being able to express themselves,” says Friese, who wrote the screenplay for all eight episodes of the first season. Gives you freedom when you can say something and the other person doesn’t understand it, but still captures the essence of it. It has an almost spiritual dimension to it.”

Despite language barriers, romantic relationships form on the ship’s deck. Mackie Musiel plays Olek, a Polish worker who toils in the Kerberos’ engine room and falls in love with a passenger who doesn’t speak his language.

“We had to communicate on different levels,” Musiel says of the two characters’ relationship. When you don’t understand another, you watch and watch very carefully. It creates even more connection because you are present with the other person.”

Whether Germany, Poland or Spain, it is ultimately unimportant which country the travelers come from. Gradually they realize that what humans have in common is more important than what separates them. As actor Miguel Bernardo says, “I think the connection between us is deeper than just language.”

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