A mysterious ship is on its way to New York. On board, a memoryless doctor, a strange captain, and even stranger passengers and crew and a jumble of languages from many European countries. It seems that all of them are trying to hide something and leave dark secrets behind. So far, so good. Until a boy with a spooky black pyramid enters the ship. This is what Baran Bo Odar and Jantje Friese, the creators of Dark, now bring to us with their new Netflix series. And so, we travel back to the dark year 1899.
1899 AND THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Since the Titanic collided with an iceberg in 1912, and 1514 people died in the icy waters, we know that the route to New York was not without its dangers at that time.
But in 1899, the ship Kerberos, comparable to the Titanic, must cross the Atlantic to bring a bunch of strange figures to New York. What is further strange is that some of them received a mysterious letter. Eventually, the included invitation led them to the ship. However, it gets even stranger when the long-missing sister ship of Kerberos, the Prometheus, suddenly reports by radio.
Of course, the captain feels obliged to help the ship Prometheus. After all, there were over 1400 people on board. You must find out yourself if this rescue operation is a good idea. Now, we will introduce you to the crew and passengers from 1899.
THE MYSTERIOUS WOMAN: MAURA FRANKLIN – EMILY BEECHAM
On the one hand, there is the beautiful Maura Franklin. A doctor from England. As a woman, however, she cannot practice in her homeland. Besides, it’s also unfavorable that, as a neurologist, she studies the brain but cannot remember what lies behind her. She also doesn’t know where the wounds on her wrists come from.
In particular, we know the English actress and singer Emily Beecham from Hail, Caesar! by the Coen Brothers. Here, she played alongside countless megastars such as George Clooney, Josh Brolin, and Scarlett Johansson. Furthermore, we saw her in the Disney film adaptation of Cruella with Emma Stone and Emma Thompson last year.
In addition, we also know the likable artist from the AMC series Into the Badlands and the title role in the 2017 film Daphne. In 2019, she received the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for Little Joe.
THE DARK CAPTAIN: EYK LARSEN – ANDREAS PIETSCHMANN
Then, there is the German captain Eyk Larsen. He also seems to be carrying a heavy burden. As often as possible, he retires to his cabin to give in to alcohol and melancholy.
Andreas Pietschmann is a theater and film actor. From 2000, he played for a long time at the Hamburger Theater. In Germany, he is particularly known for the Ku’damm series or the Netflix series Kitz.
1899: THE STRANGE 1ST CLASS
ANGEL & RAMIRO – MIGUEL BERNARDEAU & JOSÉ PIMENTÃO
Pastor Ramiro travels with his lecherous-looking “brother” Angel from Spain. In his arrogance, Angel rarely misses an opportunity to embarrass the sensitive-looking Ramiro.
Gradually it becomes clear that both are looking into deep mental and moral abysses and that 1899 is not a year in which homosexuals can move freely.
Before 1899, the Spaniard Miguel Bernardeau played successfully in the black comedy Wave of Crimes and the Elite short stories. The Portuguese José Pimentão starred in the love film Al Berto, Teorias da Conspiração and Amadeo.
CLEMENCE & LUCIEN MATHILDE OLLIVIER & JONAS BLOQUET
The situation is similar with the beautiful Frenchwoman Clemence. Coming from a good family, she is on her honeymoon with Lucien. But their journey seems to be anything but romantic. Lucien always gives Clemence the cold shoulder. As if this disharmony wasn’t enough, it only increases when they encounter the Prometheus adrift in the ocean.
Mathilde Ollivier is incredibly fascinating. Because of her sympathetic nature, the French actress brought a lot of warmth and humanity to J.J. Abrams’s horror spectacle Operation: Overlord.
Alongside Kurz Russel’s son Wyatt, she played a young woman struggling to survive in France occupied by Germans and zombies. With this film, she achieved her artistic breakthrough. We very much hope we will be able to admire the enchanting Mathilde in many other large and small productions soon.
Jonas Bloquet is no stranger. Before 1899 he was already gaining blockbuster experience. For example, we saw the Belgian alongside Vera Farmiga in the horror film The Nun. Jonas will also play again in the sequel, which is scheduled to be released next year.
Furthermore, he played in Elle with Isabelle Huppert or Malavita – The Family with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. We also saw Jonas in Wild Rose alongside Lily-Rose Depp, Johny Depp, and Vanessa Paradis’ daughter. Last but not least, he starred in Three Days to Kill with Kevin Costner and Connie Nielson or in Father and Soldier alongside Omar Sy.
LING YIL & YUK JE – ISABELLA WE & GABBY WONG
A real geisha shows neither facial expressions nor feelings. And, so it is difficult for us to see what is going on in the heart of young Ling Yil. Her companion Yuk Je, who is traveling as a maid, shows more emotions and that she is concerned about the well-being of her protégé every second.
1899 is Isabella’s first significant production. On the other hand, Gabby Wong has already crossed a Galaxy, far, far away. She played a pilot in Star Wars: Rouge One. Her other film credits include After the World Ended, Random 11, and RSC: Troilus and Cressida.
VIRGINIA WILSON – ROSALIE CRAIG
Virginia Wilson is no less peculiar. What is hidden behind the Lady’s facade is uncertain. Just like what it’s all about, she doesn’t let the young Ling Yil out of her sight.
Before 1899, Rosalie Craig was an award-winning theater and musical actress, appearing in 30 performances from Alice in Wonderland to Hex.
DANIEL SOLACE – ANEURIN BARNARD
The mysticism of 1899 increases even further with the appearance of the dark Daniel Solace. One would think the devil himself appears. So uncanny is his appearance. What is it about the puzzle he carries around with him all the time? And what is behind his intimacy with the boy?
The Welsh actor and musician Daniel Solace has acted in many TV productions like Hunky Dory. We’ve also seen him in big films. These include Dunkirk, Radioactive, The White Queen, and Dead in a Week: Or Your Money Back.
THE LOST BOY
ELLIOT – FFLYN EDWARDS
Apparently, the boy was all alone for weeks on the Prometheus, drifting rudderless across the ocean. How did he survive? And what is behind that spooky black pyramid he’s carrying?
Despite his age, the cute Welshman Fflyn Edwards already has some film experience. Apart from 1899, this year, he has already acted in Save the Cinema and, last year, he played in Her Majesty.
1899: THE NO LESS STRANGE 3RD CLASS
TOVE – CLARA ROSAGER
Also, giving birth in 1899 was still a risk. Especially when you had to share a bench and bunk with hundreds of people in 3rd class on a ship. However, pretty Tove hasn’t only worried about the baby in her body. But she must also worry about her little sister, even if she is already very smart, and independent for her age. However, her relationship with her brother is very ambivalent.
Of course, the gorgeous Clara Rosager is also active as a model. In 1899, however, the Dane shows what the future of a model looks like. Because the model market is dead. If you still want to gain a foothold here… good luck. In contrast, it has always been a great incentive for all discerning personalities to celebrate success in front of the film camera. With her role as a pregnant Tove in 1899, Clara shows it’s possible with the right talent.
We also know her from Morbius with Jared Leto or The Rain. In that Netflix series, she starred alongside her 1899 film partner Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen.
KRESTER – LUCAS LYNGGAARD TØNNESEN
That Tove’s brother Krester went through a horrible experience is evident from the scar on his face. The young man is visibly upset. If this is due to his emotional life, which he gradually discovers, we will learn from episode to episode in 1899.
Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen is also from Denmark. Apart from The Rain, we saw the 22-year-old in Borgen – Power & Glory or Sail On, My Love.
IBEN & ANKER – MARIA ERWOLTER & ALEXANDRE WILLAUME
Tove and Krester’s parents fit well into the ranks of the strange characters on the ship that sailed across the Atlantic in 1899. Both are very religious. However, Iben’s religiosity takes on unscrupulous and even pathological traits. How far do you think she will go?
Maria Erwolter is also from Denmark and played in productions like Darkland, The Ritual, Kristian, Word of God or the comedy Father of Four – On the Sunny Side before 1899.
Danish actor and painter Alexandre Willaume arguably underwent the greatest transformation in 1899. He’s almost unrecognizable in his role as the bearded Anker. However, we know him from the blockbuster Tomb Raider and several Danish and international productions. They include Moloch, Countdown Copenhagen, The Last Kingdom or Valerian, and the City of a Thousand Planets.
1899: DIE UNINFORMED CREW
OLEK – MACIEJ MUSIAŁ
The Pole Olek is a stoker on the Kerberos. And, he’s a jack of all trades. As a Pole, in 1899, he was subordinate to even the humblest German workers on the ship. So, it’s he who must take on the sometimes very dangerous dirty work. Will we find out why Olek is still loyal to the ship?
Apparently, the likeable Maciej Musiał likes films with dates. Because before 1899, he played in the Polish thriller 1983. Apart from many other domestic and international productions like the series The Witcher, the multi-talented Pole was also seen in The Voice of Poland in 2011.
FRANZ – ISAAK DENTLER
With sailor Franz, things seem to be the other way around. He has traveled the oceans with Captain Eyk Larsen for many years. But now, when Larsen decides to rush to the aid of the Prometheus, Franz isn’t happy with this decision at all.
The German audience knows the actor and voice actor Isaak Dentler primarily from the crime series Tatort and sophisticated documentaries.
JEROME – YANN GAEL
In fact, he’s not part of the crew at all. Because Jerome secretly sneaked on board. As a stowaway, he remains hidden for the time being and only seeks contact with the stoker Olek. And Jerome, like almost everyone else, seems to be looking for or running away from something. What is that?
Yann Gael was born in Garoua, Cameroon, before moving to France. Before 1899, he acted here in productions such as Loro, Rose and the Soldier, Sakho & Mangane, or They Had a Dream.
The 1899 Review
It’s the year 2022. A year in that some of the eternally yesterdays – the old white men – question and trample on the values of a Europe that is actually growing together. Baran Bo Odar and Jantje Friese, on the other hand, show how Europe really looks like. In 1899, they bring together some of the continent’s most exciting talents, showing that despite some language barriers, there’s simply more that unites us than divides us.
A TENSE STORY
The first season of 1899 starts incredibly dark, mysterious, and exciting. Odar and Friese have used all their experience to create a story that is as dense as possible and captivates the viewer. Even those who generally don’t like series can’t resist watching the following episode to find out what’s next. The storylines and relationships between the characters are so closely interwoven.
Even as children, there is one thing we cannot do, be indifferent to a secret. We want to know what’s behind it. And it is precisely this childlike, uncontrollable curiosity that Odar and Friese generate through the mysterious characters, each of whom hides a secret.
In 1899, precisely this curiosity is sparked by the story and acting of the actors. All perform at an international level. Among them, of course, Emily Beecham stands out. Thus, it’s no wonder that it’s her who graces the cover.
But the others also play their roles in an authentic and haunting way. It only remains to be wished that the enchanting Mathilde Ollivier gets more playing time and her character Clemence even more depth in the future.
It’s interesting how 1899 also illuminates current topics in the past. So, Maura, even if she doubts many things, is a strong and very educated woman who is superior to her male competitors in many ways. However, even in 1899, she hardly gets a chance to prove her qualifications. Besides women’s empowerment, topics like homosexuality and diversity also play a role in 1899. This is how the horror thriller becomes a bit of a political and social statement.
The musical accompaniment and the sound effects underline the gloomy atmosphere that 1899 conveys. The sets and backdrops round off this dark picture well. Only the CGI, the special effects, weren’t that good in places. In 2022 it could and should be much better.
A final tip – The Language Option
It’s an essential part of the 1899 story that the people on board come from many different countries. Hence, they sometimes have to communicate through gestures or interpreters. Misunderstandings, but also very emotional moments are inevitable. As the actor Maciej Musiał already explained in the interview, his characters Olek and Ling Yi, for example, manage to make their feelings for each other clear despite the language barrier. Their affection is a subliminal sign that love can transcend not only borders but also cultural, social, or religious rules. So, in order not to miss this important part of the 1899 story, the series should definitely be watched in the English original. Because in that version the different languages are only translated by subtitles. This is the only way to preserve the effect that is created in many scenes by the confusion of language.
Apart from this small flaw, the Netflix series 1899 is consistently exciting and is supported by a great cast. Almost every character reaches us on a human level and is understandable and approachable. So now, weather permitting, we can curl up on the sofa with a punch or hot chocolate to travel back in time to 1899 and join the Kerberos passengers on their horror trip. We say: 1899 is particularly worth seeing, and give 7 points.
Text: Marco Kokkot
Images: Netflix 2022. All Rights Reserved!