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TIFF 2022 Review: 1899

Review of the first two episodes. Possible spoilers ahead.

A passenger ship carrying immigrants from Europe to New York City discovers a similar vessel that disappeared four months earlier.

Dreams haunt Maura Franklin (Emily Beecham) that involve her being institutionalized and experimented upon; she books a passage on ship because of mysterious note given to her which promises to answers questions about the whereabouts of her brother.  As it turns out the captain of the vessel has been given a similar note to do with his family that died in a house fire.  Everyone seems to have a secret even the lowly classes locked in the bowels of the ship while the rich galivant in the upper levels.  Things start to get really weird when a mysterious ship is discovered and the only survivor appearing to be young boy locked in a cupboard.  An ominous passenger appears who uses a retro-tech beetle out of a steampunk movie which raises questions as to whether time and space continuum should be called into question.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage
Granted only two of the eight episodes were screened so things might improve as the story develops but hard to sanction this project leaving the port.  It is from the same creative team responsible for Dark which played with secret experiments being conducted and the intersection of different time loops in a particular town situation to a nuclear reactor.  A similar premise unfolds with 1899; however, maybe the restrictive locations is a handicap that works against the storytelling.  There is a focus on trying to distinguish between what is real and imagined.  Each episode concludes with a cliffhanger but this is not enough as everything remains so obtuse to the viewer that their significance is underwhelming.

Darkness literally prevails as shadows can be found everywhere.  The acting is theatrically dull though Emily Beecham does her best and the camera obviously loves being in her presence.  One of the more interesting characters is found dead at the end of the second episode though perhaps there is an opportunity for resurrection via another dimension.   The ominous figure resembles an evil version of John Murdoch from Dark City with period-defying technology and photograph that suggests a time loop is in play.  And the final shot of Episode 102 is a groan-inducing George Orwell meets Lost reveal.  The virtual production assists with the sea shots but even the LED screens seem flat rather than expansive.   Not a trip worth booking a passage on for the other six episodes.

The 47th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 8-18, 2022, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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One Comment

  1. If it’s anything like their previous work on Dark I’m more than certain it will have an excellent pay off as a whole season not just the first two opening episodes.

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