From The Silence to Dark: The Augmentation of Narrative Complexity in the Conversion from Cinema to Netflix

 

Dirk Hoyer

 

The first German-language Netflix series Dark (2017–2020) was developed by Baran bo Odar (in collaboration with Jantje Friese) and received critical acclaim and numerous award nominations. The writer and director bo Odar directed three films before starting to work on the series and thereby followed the lead of established film directors (e.g., David Fincher, Jane Campion, Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh) in what could be called a 21st-century conversion from cinema to serial storytelling. The growing popularity of serial storytelling formats can be explained by various factors (audience reach and demographic shift, new consumption habits, available budgets, freedom from time and space limitations in distribution) and the popularity of serial content will presumably be even more predominant in the post-pandemic age. Thus, the trend of film directors (partially) converting to serial storytelling formats is set to be reinforced. What implications does this conversion have on serial formats? In bo Odar’s case the conversion can be perceived as an augmentation of narrative complexity through hybridisation of genre conventions, expansion of the narrative spectrum, multiplication of mind game elements and percipient foregrounding of the characters’ backstory. Dark shares patterns, themes and conventions with bo Odar’s debut film The Silence (Das letzte Schweigen, 2010). The setting (German province towns), themes (darks secrets from the 1980s reverberating into the present) and narrative patterns (the ‘eternal’ recurrences) of his debut film were paving the way for the development of the Netflix series. This paper will examine how Baran bo Odar converted these elements through a prism of serialised storytelling. An analysis of how patterns and narrative conventions shift from bo Odar’s cinematic debut to his Netflix series unveils the new scope of serial storytelling in the German context and reveals the elements of narrative conversion from one medium to the other.

 

Dirk Hoyer is associate professor of audiovisual arts at Tallinn University Baltic Film, Media and Arts School (BFM). He obtained his master’s degree at the Sorbonne and his Doctor of Arts at Aalto University. Hoyer is a researcher and a filmmaker. His research focuses on scriptwriting, the films of Dimitri Kirsanoff, utopia and artistic research. Hoyer has also written and directed two feature films and two documentary films. Currently, he is working on his second monograph Retopia: Spaces of Possibility (commissioned by Routledge) and on his new film project Interstice.