German Series in the USA
Sic Mundus Creatus Est...Creepy forests, sinister nuclear power plants, eerie time-bending storylines and a host of stellar performances make Dark “Must See TV”. Commissioned by Netflix from duo Baran Bo Odar and Jantje Friese, the TV thriller is the company’s first original German-language series, which was written, shot and produced in Germany and has already been picked up for two more seasons due to critical acclaim.
By Noam Friedlander
A Nuclear power plant, a dark forest and a town called Winden1953, 1986 and 2019. “Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not consecutive. They are connected in a never-ending circle.” If David Lynch reworked his Twin Peaks magic on Stranger Things, the result would be Dark. The TV series explores the lives of four families, residents in the picturesque German village of Winden, which is reeling from the disappearance of two children. Every day in Winden is gray, bleak and overcast – much like the characters as the show veers between 2019 and the more innocent decade of the 1980s. Mysteries are abundant and every episode provides further clues about the people of Winden. Soon, double lives are exposed, relationships are tested and then… the storyline takes a supernatural twist.
The series opens with Ulrich Nielsen (Oliver Masucci), a police officer in the town of Winden, who has been cheating on his wife with Hannah Kahnwald (Maja Schöne) whose husband has just committed suicide. Soon after this, Hannah’s traumatized son, Jonas (Louis Hoffmann), is in the woods with his school friends when Ulrich’s youngest son Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) disappears. Lights flicker. Animals drop dead. And some of the town’s more senior residents (including Ulrich’s mother) remember the strange disappearances from their childhood. Then, of course, there’s a mysterious hooded figure who sees the words “Where is Mikkel?” while reading a newspaper article about Mikkel’s disappearance and changes the headline to “When is Mikkel?” And so, the scene is set.
It’s the perfect show to watch late at night, with the lights off and a soft wood fire burning in the background. The dark bleak world on the TV screen will bleed into your home and stay with you just a little longer than you imagined.
Where is Winden?The world of Winden plays a huge part in the narrative, whether it’s the nuclear power plant that dominates the town and employs most of the characters or the dark Grimm-inspired forest, which conceals the Winden Caves – underground caves that lead to the power plant itself. There’s never a dull moment in Winden, no matter the era. And by the end of the first season, new time zones are added to the narrative as characters cross into other realms.
There is, in fact, a place known as “Winden” in Germany. Deep in the Black Forest, lies “Winden im Elztal” in the district of Emmendingen in Baden-Württemberg. And, of course, legend has it that the Brothers Grimm were inspired by the forest when they wrote the fables “Hansel and Gretel,” “Rapunzel” and “Sleeping Beauty” and, in Dark, many of those fairy-tale themes are woven into the series.
However, while there are various towns in Germany called Winden, it seems more likely that Winden is a play on words. There are several explanations for “Winden” – firstly, the German word “verschwinden”, which means “to disappear”, especially as the initial theme of the series concerns missing children. Then, there is the verb “winden”, which means “to writhe” (in agony, for example), which would describe the emotions of the parents of the missing children who sob and weep in their quest to find their children. Finally, another translation of “Winden” is the German word for “twist” or “to turn round and around,” which would fit the unfolding narrative here as the story itself features constant twists.
According to the series creators, Baran bo Odarn and Jantje Friese, Winden is not a real town, and everything that was filmed for the series was purposely put together so that this fictional town wouldn’t look like a northern German town or a Bavarian village. Their idea was to turn this fictional town into a place that could be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Jonas at the entrance of the cave
What killed the sheep in Winden?
Where is Eric Obendorf?
Memento at the grave
Who is the man with the heremetic “Sic Mundus Creatus Est” tattoo?
Who is the mysterious stranger? When is he?
Eric tied up and gagged in the bunker, what is this apparatus?
What are Katharina and Charlotte arguing about?
Can Ulrich Nielsen find Mikkel on his own?
A strange photo gallery in the bunker, who is connecting the dots?
Jonas and the stranger. Jonas?!
Where are you, Jonas? When are you?
Who’s who in Dark? Who is WHEN in Dark?!The four families in 2019 are the Nielsens (Ulrich and Katharina along with their children Magnus, Martha and the now-missing Mikkel), the Dopplers (Charlotte and Peter along with their daughters Franziska and Elisabeth), the Kahnwalds (Hannah and the recently deceased Michael as well as their son Jonas) and finally the Tiedemanns (Regina and her husband Aleksander who are the parents of Bartosz).
Then, of course, there’s the enigmatic priest Noah – he never seems to age and has a penchant for kidnapping and murdering young boys. Explaining anything else would ruin the storyline, Dark is a TV series that demands your attention... and rewards you for it.
“Netflix scored a breakout hit with Dark, its first German-language series. The first season, which launched in 2017, scored an impressive 86 percent score among critics, and 92 percent among viewers, on RottenTomatoes.com. Netflix signed Dark creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar to an exclusive multiple-year overall deal to create new series for them, the first such agreement in Europe.”
– Scott Roxborough / The Hollywood Reporter
The mindbending DARK trilogy continues with the second season on Netflix. The cult favorite returned with eight more episodes on June 21st 2019 and managed to surprise even hard-core fans. Production of the third season was confirmed by Netflix and creator Baran Bo Odar and filming of eight more episodes began in June 2019, with an expected release of the final season in 2020. (Hint: for anyone through with the second season the release date of the third installment seems predestined by the significance of a particular date: June 27th 2020. Shivers!)