A trippy mystery box Lost on a liner in the middle of the ocean! During three seasons, each more complicated than the previous one, Dark followed the inhabitants of a small German town as the mystery surrounding a missing child turns into a multi-dimensional plot interspersed with time travel. A major hit from Netflix, which came to a satisfying ending. Two years later, the creators of DarkBaran Bo Odar and Jantje Friese are back this Friday on Netflix with an even more ambitious new puzzle. 1899 follows the wanderings of an ocean liner filled with migrants leaving the old continent to head for America. Let’s get on board this American-German fiction that takes the viewer on a journey as fascinating as it is demanding.
If there is a slight air of titanic in this series in costumes and the weight of the social hierarchy among the passengers of the ship divided into three distinct classes, 1899 immediately settles into the mystery with a first sequence that takes more than Shutter Island than James Cameron’s blockbuster movie.
Boarding a liner called Kerberos (Cerberus, named after the guardian of the entrance to Hell in mythology or the name of a network authentication protocol based on a mechanism of secret keys in computer science).
The mystery of the missing ship Prometheus
While the ship is on its way to New York, the Kerberos receives a transmission from Prometheus, a ship belonging to the same shipping company, which mysteriously disappeared at sea four months previously. The message boils down to a set of coordinates, repeated over and over again.
The captain of Kerberos (Andreas Pietschmann, seen in Dark) decides to take a detour in the somewhat vain hope of finding survivors. This is where things get really weird on Kerberos.
Unexplainable events and mysterious triangular shapes multiply as the title White Rabbit of the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane resonates. A song that evokes both a trip to hallucinogenic drugs and the imaginary world of Lewis Carroll, the author ofAlice in Wonderland. Just like in Dark, each 1899 episode ends with an edit to a modern song. From then on, the spectator must then, like Alice, follow the white rabbit, and agree to get lost in the screenplay labyrinth skillfully constructed by Baran Bo Odar and Jantje Friese.
A gallery of passengers hiding secrets
Over the episodes of 1899as in Lostwe discover a little more about the secrets behind each character: an English neurologist struggling with a turbulent past in search of her missing brother (Emily Beechum), a Cantonese geisha (Isabella Wei), a Portuguese priest (José Pimentão ), a young French couple (Jonas Bloquet and Mathilde Ollivier), a Polish boy working in the engine room (Maciej Musial) and a Danish family in the steerage (Alexandre Willaume, Maria Erwolter, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen, Clara Rosager.)
As Darkthe story of 1899 is non-linear, with characters moving in and out of scenes from their past as easily as from a play. These flashbacks explore a wide variety of genres, and the cinematography is up to the challenge.
A Tower of Babel in the middle of the ocean
1899 is a choral series, mainly pan-European, where everyone speaks their mother tongue. “We wanted to explore this heart of Europe, where everyone comes from somewhere else and speaks a different language, and language defines your culture and behavior so much,” Jantje Friese told Deadline about his tower of Babel on the water.
Rare are the characters who can understand each other. This layer of general incomprehension reinforces the mysterious atmosphere generated by the enigmas which fit together like Russian dolls over the course of the investigation carried out by the captain and the English neurologist to understand what happened at edge of the Prometheus.
A whole network of symbols
Small clues to the bigger mystery are scattered throughout the episodes about the bigger mystery. If the six (out of eight) episodes made available to journalists by Netflix are not enough to grasp exactly where we are being taken, they are captivating and allow us to glimpse the outlines of a skilful and complex scenario which skilfully weaves a whole network of symbols. A good mystery must have a resolution, let’s hope Baran Bo Odar and Jantje Friese’s boat doesn’t capsize during the last two episodes!