Items | Remembering “Dark,” the acclaimed Netflix series that turns 5 in 2022



‘Dark’ is a series like you’ve never seen it before. Of course, its premise may sound more like a mockery of the countless works of science fiction that have time travel as their primary structure. And it is more than obvious to draw parallels between the first German production on the Netflix platform and films immortalized and remembered until today, such as the action-adventure trilogy ‘Back to the future’ or the historical drama ‘Somewhere in the Past’. The production even maintains a dialogism with the then recent hit “Stranger Things” when it comes to facing the unknown. However, the work created by Baran bo Odar does not emerge as a genre assault, but as a hybrid task of several narratives.

The scenario is familiar: a small town, isolated from the rest of the world and scrutinized by its own values ​​and rules, is struck by a dramatic event, something that completely changes the once peaceful perspective. The inviting and nostalgic atmosphere is such that it’s even enhanced by dialogue between the characters, who ramble on about their seeming “uselessness” in the face of the scarcity of interesting events in the village – of course, except for the opening of the Winden nuclear power plant in the post-Chernobyl era. It is from all this cyclical and at first sight unbreakable conjuncture that the consecutive events become more and more obscure, living up to the name of the series.

After the usual presentation of its characters, who clearly hide secrets behind their expressionless or plastered faces, we dive into a somewhat complex mythology that relies on its colorful explanations to the detriment of incisive and saturated verbiage. Here, we already see that the tone of the series is to show rather than explain: it is therefore not surprising that the long and disturbing sequences which value symmetry well beyond stage comfort reach a time which sharpens at the same time time our senses for possible clues in the main mystery and make us yearn for the completion of the arcs.

‘Dark’ shows its originality by unveiling the mystery in the middle of the first season, more precisely with the many revelations of the fifth episode (“Truth”); what really matters here is to show the greatness of the universe in the face of flaws and vain human attempts to control its destiny. As the narrative is about time, any more forceful or daring assault may cause a hole in the story that negates the creation of a new microcosm – but the writing team are keen to provide greater development to their characters and to let history take its own course. After all, it is much easier to accept the inexorability of time than to try to change it.

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The series goes to great lengths to guide the viewer through several arcs that speak to each other in the most diverse ways. Initially, it’s believed the scope will focus on the disappearance of young Mikkel Nielsen (Daan Lennard Liebrenz). I even use this space to talk about one of the show’s most unnerving and nerve-wracking sequences: the year is 2019, but teenagers’ and children’s sense of curiosity doesn’t seem to have changed much; At some point in the second chapter, “Lies”, Mikkel accompanies his older brothers Magnus (Moritz Jahn) and Martha (Lisa Vicari), as well as the protagonist Jonas (Louis Hofmann) and his best friend Bartosz (Paul Lux) in a small trekking through the woods surrounding Winden, searching for a large shipment of marijuana hidden near a cave.

The premise of the series rescues the best elements from the crime, mystery, supernatural, and sci-fi genres. The atmosphere of the aforementioned sequence is one of the greatest and most functional cliches that unites these four installments in a classic composition of numerous and divergent cinematic works, including “ET – The Extraterrestrial”, “The Witch” and “It-The Thing”. . Facing the unknown and helplessness in the face of a much greater and inexplicable force is the crux that transforms these bold and “untouchable” young people into much more cautious and traumatized characters. And if their narrative construction already values ​​this, the imagery compositions reinforce it without falling into redundancy: before losing Mikkel, each was bathed in a harsh light which reinforced their distinction from the others, in addition to fitting into different planes. and unbalanced. – an extension of their rebellious personalities. After experiencing such trauma, the characters seem to merge with the setting, becoming amorphous and faded parts of the setting, diffused by a constant, intoxicating fog.

Jonas is perhaps one of the few who remains committed to his primary ideals. He feels responsible for Mikkel’s disappearance, and a cleverly constructed trigger midway through the second act of this odyssey activates the need to find him at all costs. As I said, ‘Dark’ is about conceptions of time and a ‘beat’ theme, so to speak: wormholes. However, not in the way we are used to, but by establishing a three-dimensional link between three different eras: 1953, 1986 and 2019. It is clear that the construction of the factory and the constant use of chemical and radioactive elements have contributed to the existence of this multiple fold in time – or perhaps it has always existed. It’s these inexplicable questions that keep audiences wanting to know more about the relationships between the characters and how they’re all connected through the past, present, and future.

Even though the classic hero’s journey borders on the suspense of the series, the young protagonists appear as an introduction to the complexity of adult characters, especially when it comes to detective Ulrich Nielsen (Oliver Masucci) and his wife Katharina (Jördis Triebel), who once again have their lives marked by the disappearance of a family member. It turns out that Ulrich, in the 1980s, also made his brother disappear in the same circumstances as his son Mikkel; this chain of events develops in the investigator a brutal need for justice, which makes him blind to the simplest and clearest clues and which makes him use the emotional and vindictive side much more than the rational and logical side.

Karoline Eichhorn also appears as a big name within the series. Her role as Charlotte Doppler, the chief of the Winden Police Department who remembers the town’s strange events as a young girl – and who is now rising from the ashes and bringing even more bitterness to a town marked by lies and tragedy. Her strong personality often masks the personal issues she faces at home, including her husband’s sexuality and his possible involvement in the disappearance of Mikkel and the other children. It is precisely his jaded face that gives him humanity, something so complicated to be transparent that it becomes surreal.

‘Dark’ is believable. Palpable, nostalgic, and its originality comes not with the main theme or its premise, but with indulging in a new, more human perspective at the expense of sci-fi scope. His characters are us, ordinary people suffering from loss and trauma, dismantled with justice and blinded by the helplessness of not being able to do anything to change what happened.

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