After the success of the series “Dark”, the German duo Jantje Friese – Baran Bo Odar was given a free hand by Netflix. Of the total budget of 60 million dollars for “1899”, Netflix landed as much as 48, and the remaining 12 million came from German film funds, so that the series, which is mainly set on an ocean-going steamship at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, is far the most expensive German series of all time. And again, it’s a High Concept series that may not grab attention right from the start as was the case with “Dark”, and to some extent there are objections that at the beginning it seems incredibly confusing, chaotic and even slow and it’s hard to even guess where it all leads , but by the end of the first season, everything falls somewhat into place.
Friese and Bo Odar have already announced that “1899” will have three seasons as well as “Dark”, and conceptually it is quite similar to the earlier series they shot. And not only conceptually, but also in terms of atmosphere, style and music, while the theme this time is more in the footsteps of Nolan’s “Inception”, even the recently canceled “Westworld”. Again, it’s a real mystery puzzle from a series whose plot moves rather slowly at first, and yet it dances somewhere halfway between SF, horror and thriller. And again, of course, nothing is as it seems, and while Friese and Bo Odar in “Dark” relied more on quantum physics, the concept of space – time and travel through time, here the focus is on the psychological and philosophical aspect, to understand we will finish.
Here, the story follows the lines of Plato’s well-known allegory about the cave, which actually symbolizes the sensory world of people. Plato presented this world to prisoners who cannot see themselves and the only thing they can see is the opposite wall at the bottom of the cave. That’s why they think that what they see is the only reality, those silhouettes and echoes of footsteps above them, and only when they are freed and come out of the cave can they slowly learn and understand reality and the world they live in. What they first thought was the world around them and life in general is actually a complete illusion (I have simplified this a lot, but everyone who studied philosophy in high school will remember this well-known myth to some extent), and it will turn out that in the characters we will meet on the transoceanic steamship Kerbero, which is headed from Southampton to New York, also live in an almost identical darkness.
And there is a real tower of Babel there, people from practically all European countries travel to America, and there is a cacophony of voices. We have Britons, Germans, French, Spaniards, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Poles, Chinese, at one point you can even hear some episodic characters speaking Serbian or Croatian, but none of the important characters are from these parts. The ship’s crew is made up of Germans, although the company was recently sold to a new, mysterious English owner, and captain Eyko Larsen (Andreas Pietschmann, who was a mysterious time-traveling guy in Darko) is still haunted by a tragedy from the past. And while in the cabins on deck there are people of better material status, below deck there are poor people who probably invested everything they have in the journey to the new world, but “1899” does not deal with those class relations so obviously.
Among those who are in the first class is the English nurse Maura Franklin (Emily Beecham), who we actually see in the opening scene while some experiments are being performed on her, which actually immediately suggests that nothing is as it seems. She set out on the Kerbera in search of her brother who had disappeared and who had previously sent her a letter, and she assumes that the brother could be on another ship of the same company, the Prometheus, which disappeared a few months earlier. During the journey across the Atlantic, Kerber will run into the Prometheus, which apparently had an accident, and while in “Dark” everything started with the disappearance of the boy, here everything will begin with the finding of the mysterious silent boy on the Prometheus.
And everything here seems completely psychedelic, even the choice of music at the end of each episode is from that period, while the theme is a modern version of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airline. Not only are Maura and the captain hiding some secret, but it seems that practically all the characters have some secrets and are hiding something, and the story is again extremely complex and complicated, and for now “1899” is still significantly weaker in content than “Dark”. but we will see what awaits us in the next seasons, if there are any. Again, Friese and Bo Odar threw in various ideas and concepts, and again we also have time travel, secret portals, and although it all seems rather chaotic, confusing, even overcomplicated, it will still partly fall into place by the end and I hope that we will get more answers by the end.