If you've finished watching Stranger Things season 2 and are itching for a new show to satisfy that urge for enigmatic brain twisters, Netflix has just dropped its newest import. From Germany, the show is called Dark and it couldn't be more aptly named. It's very, very dark, and you'll want to check for monsters in your closet after the first couple episodes.
Before we get into what Dark is about, let's first discuss how you should watch the show. After you've gathered your security sweatshirt and some liquid courage, you'll want to adjust the language settings. For these purposes, we're going to assume you speak English if you're reading this post. Dark is a German show, so it was initially filmed with the actors speaking their native tongue. Netflix offers you the option of watching Dark with overdubbed audio in several languages, including English, Spanish, French. We recommend watching it in German with English subtitles, rather than the dubbed English version.
If you don't know how to do this, open up Dark on Netflix, and you'll see a small speech box on the bottom task bar. Click that, and set the first audio column to German. Then set the next subtitles column to English.
There's a couple reasons for this. First off, you'll be able to get a better grasp of the actors' tone and delivery by hearing them speak their own language, which helps you understand the nuances of their performances a lot better. Even the best voice dubbing can't exactly mimic their subtleties.
Second – and here's where my linguistic nerd comes out – German's grammar collapses two or several concepts into single words (like poltergeist, which means "noisy ghost"). In English, we typically only do this for antonymic contractions like isn't or doesn't. There are also a lot of words in German that don't have an English translation. The old adage that "there's a German word for everything" is kind of true: The language is older than English, and has had more time to develop single words or phrases to describe different kinds of phenomena that in English, we may use an entire sentence to describe.
For example, we all know that schadenfreude means to feel joy or glee in someone else's misfortune. The single world describes the specific emotion itself — similar to how the English words sadness and happiness both define one concept. In English, you need several words to define schadenfreude.
This is exactly why you should watch Dark with the subtitles. It gives the audience a much clearer English translation of German words that a dubbing wouldn't have time to do before the next character speaks. With dubbing, words have to be omitted or substituted for less-precise translations. And with a show this mysterious, you'll want to absorb every bit of it.
But let's dive back into the show: Dark follows the strange disappearance of a boy named Erik in a town called Winden. It's dreary, foggy, and the characters seem weighed down; they hardly ever smile. The music is written by spooky ambient noise musician Ben Frost, one of my personal faves, and really fills the show with trepidation.
The subtitles really help when you watch the scene at the Waldhotel Winden. Regina Tiedemann's anger with her bank really comes through as she screams in German over the phone, and with subtitles it gives you a much clearer understanding about her financial situation. "I'm quite aware of what you said," she says in the English dub, while the subtitled English translation reads "I have not miscalculated," which infers that she's talking more about money. It's a subtle change, but it really does help you get a better scope of where her anger is coming from.
If you choose to watch Dark, be warned: you won't be able to stop. Its spooky atmosphere is perfect for this time of year. Just be sure to binge-watch it with subtitles.
This article has been revised to correct the names of Erik and Winden.
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