1899: Netflix Makes a Splash with New Show


Leila Simeon, Graphics Editor

For many years we watched the genius of German duo Jantje Friese and Baran Bo Odar in the form of the painfully bizarre and confusing, yet masterful, Netflix show, Dark. Now they’ve returned, as of November 17th, with an even more enigmatic period drama. 1899 is a slice of “existentialist” pie with a horror filled whip on top as it follows the main characters aboard a colossal 19th century cruise ship jetting across the Atlantic to New York. 


The 1400-some passengers range from secret lovers to weary farmers to the decadent rich all seeking opportunity in the New World. This quest to leave behind the shadows of yesterday comes to a halt when another ship from the same company, which was suspiciously missing for 4 months, sends a signal. This very unwonted event harkens a series of painful memories, unusual passageways and a foreboding cloud of death upon the ship and its passengers. 


Just how or even why a ship thought to be missing for four months would appear in the middle of the atlantic seemingly deserted or why little mechanic beetles are pooling around the cabins or why no one is who they seem to be makes 1899 a thrilling watch. It is not easy to explain the unexplainable, however Friese and Odar have laid the foundation for what could be a modern epic. 


The dynamic interactions between the characters, who might I add each speak their mother tongue is heartfelt. They connect in ways that transcend language; they form relationships based on shared experience. It is truly beautiful. Emily Beecham’s work as the quizzical doctor is a psychedelic look into our innate affinity for madness. An air of uneasiness comes from Elliot and Daniel, played by Ffyln Edwards and Aneurin Barnard, who seem to know exactly what is going on and yet tease viewers, letting clues slip without revealing everything. Amongst the craziness and paradoxicality of it all, really nuanced takes on sexual transgression, prejudice and class create a very unique structure. 


Watching this show, I felt like an ant looking up as a shoe slowly hammers down on it. The philosophical underpinnings of the show make for a very confused viewer and while that may not sound like a good thing, it is. Did I suffer from an unpleasant headache I’ve since blamed on watching the show in one sitting? Yes. Did I find myself more confused watching this than I did learning physics? Also, yes. But trust me when I say, every minute of confusion was worth it. Friese and Odar have masterfully crafted a world of epic proportions. I’m excited to see how they continue the story.