The best show I have watched
By Teppei, Contributor
One of the things that makes this show so circular from beginning to end is that the show was originally written and planned to be developed in three seasons and that is exactly what they did.
What makes a TV or streaming series lovable and binge worthy? It is hard to tell when the variety of shows available is almost as wide as the audience itself. Some people love seeing outstanding acting roles or incredibly charming characters; others love simple sitcoms about common people in quotidian situations that they can relate to and make the show easy to watch for long periods of time. In my case, the best show I have ever watched is nothing like those.
Dark, the first German Netflix original series, was released on June 21, 2019. I was sucked in within minutes—if not seconds—of watching the first episode.
The show starts with a black screen and an Albert Einstein quote: “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Immediately after, a series of close-up shots of whom we will soon find out are the main characters emerges. The pictures show the characters from childhood through their senior years. They are pinned to a wall and connected by thread in the same way a detective would do while investigating a crime case, hinting that an atrocity will (or has already) happened with all these people involved.
As the images pass, a narrator explains that the idea we have of a linear time, past, present, and future is merely an illusion. Eerie music accompanies the idea that yesterday, today, and tomorrow are not consecutive and otherwise are connected in a never-ending cycle.
This first sequence is pretty straight forward evidencing the core concept of the show: The Bootstrap Paradox. I will not get into spoilers, but the audience will find out within the first few episodes how meticulous and intricately these people’s lives are deeply interwoven in 33-year cycles.
Within the first ten minutes of the show, we witness a magistral cinematographic work: a long continuous shot at the Nielsen’s while having breakfast. Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) performs a magic trick where he makes a ball disappear. This will be fundamental and relevant to the story and the way it is subtly brought to us is immaculate. He also introduces a phrase that will become paramount throughout the three seasons of the show: “The question is not where, but when.” After watching this sequence, I knew for a fact that I was going to love the series, but I did not know to what extent.
Without a live audience, the actors and actresses’ mannerisms and intonation need not be exaggerated to accurately transmit whatever emotions the characters are feeling. Film can use other elements of cinematographic language to achieve this; from sound elements that entail both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds (voiceover, dialogues, music, incidental sounds) to the juxtaposition of different shots through editing. For instance, in theater if a character feels upset after receiving bad news, they might yell “Oh no! I am so sad!” while they cover their face and crash to their knees. In film, you can have a close-up of the character’s teary eye followed by their hand closing into a fist with dissonant chords to make the audience feel distressed or uncomfortable.
The characters are just fractions of the whole, and no actor or actress stands out from the rest. They all have amazing subtle performances and each of them serves for the sake of the final product. They add to the intricate storyline and are supported by the phenomenal score composed by Ben Frost. Thanks to the excellent articulation of these cinematographic language elements, Dark is one of the finest examples of a well-achieved product for the screen.
Alongside the outstanding acting, the casting department did an amazing job finding actors and actresses that REALLY look like each character but in different stages of their lives. As I said, a constant and key element throughout the entirety of the show is time travelling, so having such a perfect cast makes everything easier, but not simple to follow.
One of the things that makes this show so circular from beginning to end is that the show was originally written and planned to be developed in three seasons and that is exactly what they did. I think too many shows are plagued by greedy producers who hire a bunch of writers after initial success to drag out five extra seasons, reducing the show to something quite different than what it was meant to be. In Dark, every single episode of the three seasons was created and directed by Baran bo Odar, which also contributes enormously to the unity achieved in this show.
Dark is an amazing series that I believe everyone should watch, but it certainly is not a show you can just have on while multitasking. It will demand your full attention and it will undoubtedly give you a couple (probably way more) headaches while watching it. It is worth every single one of them; trust me on this one.