Netflix’s new period drama, 1899, looks (and sounds) incredible…
Netflix’s Dark, which first aired in 2017, has one of the highest – and freshest – Rotten Tomatoes scores for a TV show ever, with its critics rating at 95% and audience rating at 94% respectively.
Now, its creators have dropped another mind-bending horror series on the streaming platform – and you better believe that 1899 is already living up to expectation (and then some).
Here’s everything you need to know about the twisty historical mystery.
What’s the plot of 1899?
The year, as you’ve undoubtedly guessed, is 1899, and a migrant steamship is heading west to leave the old continent.
Not one of its passengers are what they seem; each of them is running away from something, each of them has a secret. Still, though, they are united by their hopes and dreams for the new century and their future abroad – until, that is, they encounter a mysterious second ship floating adrift on the open sea.
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This ship – The Prometheus – has been missing for months. Months. And so, keen to learn exactly what happened to everyone aboard (and clearly not au fait with the rules of horror), it’s not long before our motley crew decides to board The Prometheus and investigate further.
What they find on board, however, is the stuff of nightmares, and it’s not long before things take a horrific (and, this being the brainchild of the creators of Dark, a decidedly weird) turn.
Watch the trailer for 1899 below:
Showrunner Jantje Friese says: “To really distil it down, it’s an eight-part mystery that unfolds before the viewer, like a tantalising puzzle. We’re playing with ideas and expectations. And the most important thing is that 1899 tells a thoroughly international story and was also a thoroughly European show in its creation.
“It’s about immigrants on a ship bound for America. Immigrants from so many different countries, all speaking different languages – English, German, Spanish, French, Polish, Danish, Portuguese, Cantonese.”
Fellow showrunner Baran Bo Odar says: “We had the idea quite a while ago. The original inspiration was a photo that we found a few years ago – it’s the photo of a man in his underwear on the deck of an old ship with a bloody hammer in his hands. This immediately sparked something in us. You had to ask: when was that? What happened here? How does it make us feel?
“It was that photo that really sparked the idea to tell a story about immigrants.”
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Friese adds: “It was also the moment that Brexit really came to the fore; it felt like Europe was faltering, as if the idea of a unified Europe was hanging in the balance. So we wanted to also tell a story about Europe, about ideas and problems that we’re facing at the moment.
“And we wanted to tell it in the way we do best, in the form of a mystery – exciting, dark, intense, action-packed, full of twists and turns.”
Who stars in 1899?
1899 boasts a truly stellar cast, led by The Witcher’s Maciej Musial, The Nun’s Jonas Bloquet, and Into The Badlands’ Emily Beecham – who dazzled us last year opposite Lily James in the BBC’s The Pursuit Of Love.
The trio are joined by Aneurin Barnard, Andreas Pietschmann, Miguel Bernardeau, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen, Rosalie Craig, Clara Rosager, Maria Erwolter, Yann Gael, Mathilde Ollivier, José Pimentão, Isabella Wei, Gabby Wong, Fflyn Edwards, Alexandre Willaume and Anton Lasser, among others.
And best of all? As 1899 promises to be a truly multi-language series, all actors will speak in the language of their origin.
What are people saying about 1899?
Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, with many piling praise on the genre-bending series for blending surrealism with mystery.
Of course, some critics have compared it unfavourably to Dark – but it’s worth noting that Friese and Bo Odar made a conscious decision to make 1899 feel as distinctive as possible from its predecessor.
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“We didn’t want to repeat ourselves,” says Bo Odar. “It’s something we’ve managed so far, so from the very start of 1899 we knew we didn’t want to make a second Dark. Dark was an almost melancholy series; 1899 has a wildly fast tempo. The ship is always moving and that translates onto the whole show.
“It’s about a journey; the characters aren’t standing still, and on the ship itself, everything is always moving. The plot has so much energy. We like it. We were really impressed with even the first draft. It’s like a sort of polar opposite to Dark.”
Friese adds: “I hope that the viewers have real enthusiasm for the puzzle, to discover the world of 1899 and hunt for all the tiny hints and clues that make up the whole. The series is full of secrets and surprises. But more than that, I hope that the viewers enjoy the many different languages.
“The cocktail of different cultures is totally unique, and I find it very, very inspiring. We think this is something both fans of Dark and new fans will enjoy.”
When can we watch 1899?
All eight episodes of 1899 are available to stream via Netflix from today (17 November).
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