Wibbly wobbly, crimey wimey
Is it really the German Stranger
Things? We watched the Netflix show to say ja or nein.
released OUT NOW! 2017 | sVOd Director Baran bo Odar Cast Oliver Masucci, Jördis Triebel, daan lennard liebrenz, Karoline eichhorn, andreas Pietschmann, louis Hofmann
You might want to put an extra layer on or turn up the central heating before settling down to watch Dark. Not since Chris Carter’s Millennium has a television show looked quite so palpably damp and drizzly. Set in a rain-lashed rural German town, this Netflix original series is being pitched as “the new Stranger Things”. In truth, while there are stylistic similarities, Dark owes far more to the likes of Donnie Darko and classic shows such as Lost and, naturally, Twin Peaks.
Kids are going missing in Winden. People begin to fear the worst, especially when the body of an unidentified child is discovered. Some of the local youngsters head into the woods to find a stash of drugs, but while out there, Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) is accidentally transported back in time to 1986. As he struggles to come to terms with what’s happened to him, his friends and family back in 2019 try to put together the pieces of a mystery stretching back to the ’50s that involves the local nuclear power plant, a mysterious clockwork box and a sinister priest...
While Dark tips its hat to the current nostalgia boom in its ’80s sequences – a reference to The Breakfast Club here, an apposite pop song there – it has bigger fish to fry. The show’s more concerned with the incomprehensible pain of families losing a child than it is with Mikkel’s out-of-time experiences or the vague murder mystery at its centre.
Oliver Masucci and Jördis Triebel are especially good as the grieving parents, selling their desperation with painful conviction. You do, however, crave lighter moments. A joke – just one! – or a tender character beat that doesn’t end in tragedy would be welcome amid the musings on the futility of existence, especially given that the actual plot is standard genre fare dressed up in the finery of prestige TV.
But what finery! Very few shows look quite this gorgeous. With its shadowy woods, underground bunkers and imposing towers of the local power plant, it’s deeply immersive. Every shot is immaculately framed, and split-screen is smartly used to connect the younger and older versions of characters across the canyons of time. Ben Frost’s electronic score, too, is beautiful and unusual, even if he does go a bit heavy on the Inception horn.
Although the finale feels frustrating in its refusal to tie up loose ends and the intricacies of the puzzlebox plot sometimes feel like they need a diagram to explain them (Steven Moffat, we’ve found your new favourite show...), Dark ultimately impresses. It’s treading familiar, muddy ground, but there’s heart as well as brains here. And the final shot will leave you craving a second season. Will Salmon
Netflix originally approached the creators about adapting their 2014 hacker thriller Who Am I. They pitched Dark instead.
The boy scouts had left his lazy butt behind.