Dir; Baran bo Odar. Starring: Oliver Masucci, Karoline Eichhorn, Louis Hoffman. 2017. NR. Color. 10 Ep.
After the inevitable bingeing of Netflix‘s ’80s throwback, “Stranger Things,” fans will be craving a new series to fill the void and DARK is just the series to do that. DARK is a combination of drama and sci-fi: the double crossing, the affairs, the murders, and – the time travel. The title lends not a glimpse into what you’re about to see – and I don’t even know how to write this review without spoiling it for you. My suggestion is to stop reading here, turn off the lights, close the curtains, and go watch all 10 episodes. Do so blind: read nothing, skip the trailer, pass over the about section, and hit play. Afterwards, take a moment to let it sink in. Let your mind readjust, and then continue reading this review, as if you and I were having a conversation about what we just witnessed.
DARK plunges you into a world that takes away everything you thought you knew about time. It introduces you to the residents of Winden, a small German town, who are caught up in something much bigger than themselves. There is an overarching storyline which gives you the sense that there is a bigger character than the actors you are watching on the screen, and that character is time. Time is something we all have in common, something that crosses all cultures, and something we all want more of. To begin, and to set the tone, the opening scene is a suicide, in a dim attic office. As a native English speaker, with very little knowledge of Germanic languages, reading the title cards and following the story made this show entirely captivating. The guttural tones of the language add to the sinking feeling that something terrible is going on in this town.
Right away we are swept into the life of Ulrich Nielson (Oliver Masucci), a cop with weak morals who is having an affair with the widow of the man who killed himself in the opening scene. From here we are thrown into events that are beyond comprehension – first we learn a boy is missing, Erik Obendorf, and there are zero leads. Next, a second boy goes missing, Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz), Ulrich’s son, while out in the woods with his siblings and Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hofmann), who is the son of the widow and the man who hung himself. This is when everything becomes incredibly entangled with time and it is no longer about “where” these boys have gone missing to, but “when.”
If only that was the single mystery to be worked out, this might have been a simpler series. However, it is not. The town’s major source of employment, the nuclear power plant, is hiding something, and just when it feels as if we might have grasped what is transpiring, a dead boy is discovered in the woods- the place where Mikkel first disappeared- but nein, it is not Mikkel, nor is it Erik. It is a third boy, with ghastly wounds disfiguring his face. The townsfolk are all thinking the same thing – this has happened before. The same strange occurrences are happening again, dead sheep, birds falling from the sky, neighborhood boys disappearing into thin air. The first boy to go missing was in 1986 – Ulrich’s brother, Mads Nielson. As a cop and a brother, Ulrich must relive the events of 1986 to try to piece together the disappearance of his own son. As he untangles the web he finds himself going back to the year 1953 to try to stop the man he believes is responsible.
Jonas, a worn-down young man struggling with the untimely death of his father, begins a journey of his own, into the discovery of his father’s true heritage and how he is entangled with Mikkel’s disappearance. Not immediately clear, we learn through a series of time-travel related events, that Mikkel is in fact, Jonas’s father. Jonas learns this from a letter Mikkel has left behind for him. Jonas travels back in time to 1986 through the cave-system inside Winden’s forrest, part of which is owned by the Nuclear Power Plant, and sees this for himself. Jonas’s story is incredible, as you learn that he would not exist if it were not for the disappearance of Mikkel. Mikkel is alive and well in 1986, where he meets Jonas’s mother, Hannah, the very widow having an affair with Ulrich, who we now know would be her true father-in-law. Jonas becomes a mysterious figure himself, from the past and the future, as he takes on the disappearance of the boys and tries to set time back on track in Winden.
I’ve only skimmed the top of this deeply unsettling series – also entangled in Winden’s mysteries are the Tiedemanns and the Dopplers, two families with their own private issues and roots that go deep into the past of Winden. As the series plays out, it feels as if we are being let in on a profound and well kept secret. The mysteries continue to pile up, bit by bit is revealed, but nothing is wrapped up in these quick 10 episodes. The imagery is beautiful, though the subject matter is dark and weighty. It’s as if you have been passed the torch, and you now possess the knowledge of Winden, while it’s residents still have yet to fully discover what it’s hiding deep within it’s caves. Each resident of this town has been touched by the secret, and they have yet to put it all together. We are left at the end, with Jonas being welcomed to the future – he is no longer in 1986, nor 1953, and it is definitely not 2019. DARK is unforgettable and I am eagerly awaiting part two.
Suck Factor: 0 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by The Girl
*The Suck Factor! – How it Works
I’ve flipped the switch on the standard rating system for film criticism. Instead of rating a movie with stars or letters representing how good a film is, I rank films from 0 to 7 to tell you how much a movie SUCKS! So if the film is a masterpiece, like “The Godfather” for example, then it gets a 0 on my scale, meaning the movie gives 0 SUCKS! If the movie is absolutely terrible, for instance every Michael Bay film, it scores a 7 so you know to avoid it at all costs.
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