‘1899’ TV Review: Netflix’s Craft Mystery Gets Off Course

By | November 19, 2022

Mystery-thriller “Dark” gave one of its first big international hits when it announced that German creators Baran Bo Odar and Jantje Friese were the masterminds of the atmospheric mystery scene.

The pair’s latest, “1899,” expands on the escape room opening, presenting a more complex plot: A hollow heroine (Emily Beecham) wakes up in Kerberos’ nest, carrying refugees to the New World. Armchair detectives discover the woman’s wrists, the postcard on her dress, the newspaper reporting a missing ship of the same name. Critics have been running through a medium-to-long list of spoilers that Netflix’s PR team wanted us to avoid.

If “Darkness” is without the clever “Twin Peaks”, “1899” summarizes – and simplifies – risks “lost” on the high seas. In fact, this is several shows at once, and part of the puzzle is to know which one you want to be. The basic set-up is a period drama reinvented with a twist and spill: that ghost ship soon reappears on the starboard bow of Kerberos. There’s a little soap in the water, not the least bit of attraction between Beecham’s Dr. Maura Franklin and the ship’s widowed Captain Eick (Andreas Pietschmann). And so we travel to the realm of the “Titanic,” where a gap opens between the passengers on the upper deck of the ship, who were initially able to relax, and the troubled and restless ship that hides in its hull.

Dr. Maura finds herself at the center of the motivations of her fellow travelers—a hapless French honeymooner (Matilde Olivier and Jonas Blockett), shady Spanish brothers (Miguel Bernardo and Jose Pimentão), a never-smiling geisha (Isabella Wai) who is both rational and sympathetic. ) and a hobbit-like stowaway (Aneurin Barnard) – are open to question. (Danish housewives, by contrast, remain reliably dim.) But idiosyncratic little bugs, one kind or another, let us know that nothing is what it seems. Passengers drink tea at the same time. Ben Frost’s ambient score resembles a radio being retuned in a nearby room. Faint parallels are drawn between the ocean and the human mind.

One does not call the “lost” lightly; As such a divisive thought experiment, the ultimate success of “The 1899s” will depend on how long and far viewers are willing to travel alongside it for immediate forms of gratification. Now that I’ve watched all eight episodes, I’d give the show this: It has a great hook, and then constantly stokes the fan theory fire. What is the significance of the triangular shape of the ship? Why are all compasses set to rotate? Do cabin numbers make more mathematical sense? In the third episode, the supernatural fog that drifts in to cover both ships can steam from the overworked writers’ room.

Of course, if you’re against those shows whose commercials leave more questions than answers, it’s best to steer clear. Yet product knowledge reinforces the narrative’s intrigue: it’s a well-crafted stocking filler that can move reluctant puzzlers. Udo Kramer’s penumbral production design allows Beau Odard’s camera to swing through interlocking, sometimes Kubrickian corridors, cabinets and trap doors. Kerberos has been a place of interest long before the passenger list dwindled and it was completely eclipsed.

The problem is that this framework is more convincing than the people within it. Reaching some distance beyond the “dark” provincial territory, “1899” focuses on a fully international, multilingual ensemble. However, it reminds you that no one was the main star behind “Lost” because the characters are allowed no more agency than the ball handlers in a pachinko hall. Similarly, the characters in ‘1899’, shivering in a mechanical construct, keep their secrets until it’s okay to leave the game. Actors spend most of their scenes literally echoing lines from the audience’s couch: “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on here?”, “None of this makes sense!,” “Why is this happening again?”

And despite the often comical interlude of 20th-century pop (“Killing Moon,” “Fear the Reaper,” “White Rabbit”), the pervasive humorlessness gets tiresome after a while: like the recently deleted “Westworld.” The game will leave you with a sharpened blade, not a smile. The final pieces are a representational mixed bag: clever and striking in the contrast of visual interior and exterior space, larger on the plateau, still larger. Not only is the space-time bending—invoking the title of “1899”—but the show itself is collapsing under the strain of trying to repair itself. There’s a certain charm to watching a show under the weight of its own intelligent design; In the meantime, I fear that all but the most extreme will not jump ship.

“1899” is now streaming on Netflix. All eight units were screened for review.

Editors-in-chief: Philip Clausing, Baran Bo Odar, Jantje Friese
Editor: Pat Tokey-Dixon. Line editor: Benedikt Bothe.
Cast: Emily Beecham, Aneurin Barnard, Andreas Pietschmann, Miguel Bernardeau, José Pimentão, Gabby Wong, Isabella Wei, Yann Gael, Mathilde Oliver, Jonas Bloquet, Rosalie Craig, Anton Lesser.

Category: tv

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