For the first time, „Dark“ tackles the archenemy of any conscious being in this world: time. This sounds more original than it actually is, because „Dark“ draws heavily from a previous television series without actually citing it: „Twin Peaks“ (1990-2017) by David Lynch and Mark Frost.
Like the town of „Twin Peaks“, „Winden“ in „Dark“ has a certain ecology to it: towns surrounding the economy of nuclear power plants, or nuclear waste facilities like Gorleben, were always of extreme social importance in Germany. Since the novel „Die Wolke“ (1987) by Gudrun Pausewang they were a center of fear in some public consciousness even without actually evoking a strong opposition against nuclear energy itself until the turn of the century.
Unlike France, here in Austria the opposition against nuclear energy was present since the late Seventies: Zwentendorf, the first Austrian nuclear power planet was built but never started working. It faced strong political opposition by progressives and conservatives alike, although most conservatives who voted against it may only have done so probing an uprise against the socialist government led by Bruno Kreisky which dominated the 1970s here – not really being against the usage of nuclear energy itself: antisemitic resentments against Kreisky – gathered from the Nazi terror between 1938 and 1945, or the Catholic Austrofacist movement of the „Vaterländische Front“ which came to prominence in the state between 1934 and 1938, may also have been enough to steer the opposition against Zwentendorf thirty to forty years later.
And in Winnenden, a town in Baden-Württemberg – there was a school shooting in 2009 which raised to national awareness in Germany. So „Winden“ somehow speaks for itself: it’s a „sprechender Name“, a talking name in German. Also: „time squirms“ in German, „die Zeit windet sich“.
For the most part of the third season of „Twin Peaks“, Kyle MacLachlan played a walking corpse – this was clearly David Lynch’s take on a zombie: what if we as living beings could manage to overcome the perils of time by actually playing undead while still communicating with all of those (occasionally) surrounding us? When the character of MacLachlan finally met Laura Palmer as the actual (secret) protagonist of „Twin Peaks“, time stood still – not unlike the final bed sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece „2001“.
Yet „Dark“ also somehow does refer to another series, the French „Les Revenants“ („The Returned“, 2012-15), based on the 2004 movie of the same name: „Les Revenants“ also featured „zombies“, but without physically or behavioristic altering them. They were much more „zombies“ in a Christian (Lazarus) sense, „Wiedergänger“ as they are called in German: the people in „Dark“ who travel through time behave in a similar manner to those in „The Returned“ (at least initially).
In „Dark“, through a whole in the ground – that hardly can be interpreted as a „cave“ – people travel through time.
Inside there’s a choice: a fork to choose in which time period you may want to go. With exactly 33 years between those periods: 1953, 1986 and 2019. While these entrances are each time blocked by a door that reads the latin sentence „sic mundus creatus est“: when entering it, air flows through.
The revelation of this door also introduces some imagery of „classic“ time travel in the style of H. G. Wells: soon after, a small machine is revealed which resembles complex machinery built in the late 19th century.
Here, the world is created. So the world is constituted by time.
As Emily Dickinson wrote, deeming eternity: people may constitute time themselves but in „Dark“ the world in itself is also constituted by time. This already looms the very strong deterministic approach of the series. Determinism, a stablehold of today’s culture.
The typical paradoxical elements of time travel do not count here. As at one point in its first season it’s even pointed out in the series itself: there’s no DeLorean, no apparent possibility to do harm to yourself or your ancestors in the past. And no apparent way to change a later introduced, apocalyptic future in which the nuclear power plant exploded and drones fly around.
It’s a world of seemingly endless possibilities that’s created there in flux and fold. Although there is, unlike „Twin Peaks“, no surreal element to it – and no humour whatsoever – time outside of Winden and certain artefacts like a Walkman from Sony playing Nena – which means time regarding everything else – does not seem to exist: it’s a world without history.
So I’ve watched all of the first season and I’m now at the beginning of the second one: despite its success, the series already came to an end two years ago. Why? I don’t know yet.
There are certain rocky dialogues and dubious character portraits for sure, but – beside of the setting -what’s also compelling is the lack of most if not all political innuendo.
Yes, the production values are indeed strikingly good at times. There are a lot great German actors and actresses present here, like in the contemporary period alone Karoline Eichhorn (from the exceptional German TV movie „Der Sandmann“ in the mid nineties) and Angela Winkler (of Schloendorff fame, or recently seen in the excellent re-imagination of „Suspiria“ by Luca Guadagnino). Yet what really stands out is the counter-play between the three (or four, including the future events) settings. Especially 1953 is very well made, when not a lot is going on there: which can not be said in the cringe-worthy scenes were the video game „The Surge“ (2017) is be played.
For a production like this, it really may have been important to not detail too much: some hints are necessary to let the audience differentiate (all of) the time periods but the narrative mess which was the first season of „The Witcher“ is largely avoided here by just no telling too much details. This is no (ideological) reductionism per se, but a convenient method to competently transport a complex narrative.
Da die meisten Zugriffszahlen auf diesen Blog mit Abstand aus Nordamerika stammen, werde ich von nun an auch ohne Vorwarnung oder Begründung Einträge gelegentlich in englischer Sprache gestalten, vor allem wenn sie einen Bezug zum deutschsprachigen Raum (aus dem ich stamme) aufweisen – der für ein internationales Publikum interessant sein könnte.