Is Netflix’s 1899 based on a true story?

A still from 1899 (Image via Netflix)
A still from 1899 (Image via Netflix)

1899 has become one of the most-talked-about shows since it premiered on Netflix in November, mostly because of the fact that it comes from the creators of Dark.

The new show has many similarities to the acclaimed Dark, but deals with a completely new type of mystery. Among the many questions that linger about 1899, the most persistent one is whether it was inspired by real events.

The series by Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar follows a group of immigrants on a ship trying to reach America and start a new life.

The series may not be based on a true story itself, but is inspired by true events like the European migrant crisis of 2015 and Brexit. Sources have also claimed that the many disappearing ships over the past few decades, especially in the Bermuda Triangle, could have also been an inspiration.


From migrant crisis to Brexit, how real events inspired 1899

1899's creators explained in an interview that it was inspired by Brexit and the European migrant crisis. Friese told Deadline Hollywood, referring to the inspiration for the show:

"We felt that with the past years of Europe being on the decline, we wanted to give a counterpoint to Brexit, and to nationalism rising in different countries, to go back to that idea of Europe and Europeans working and creating together."

She further stated:

"Being true to the cultures and the languages was really important, we never wanted to have characters from different countries but everyone speaks English....We wanted to explore this heart of Europe, where everyone comes from somewhere else and speaks a different language, and language defines so much of your culture and your behaviour."

As mentioned by Friese, culture and language are indeed an important part of the series that deals with various immigrants from different cultures and spaces. This created a dynamic that was a major driving force in the series. She added:

"We just had a reading, partly on zoom, partly with actors who are here [in Germany], and it was such an amazing experience to hear everyone speak in their language, going from Spanish to French to Polish, and have it all come together...I hope it’s going to make English-speaking people learn and love different languages as well."

Unlike the immigrant crisis, the creators have not confirmed anything explicitly about the Bermuda Triangle theory and the disappearing ships. Hence, so far, the migrant crisis and Brexit remain the only officially recognized inspiration for the show.

1899 may still be in its starting phase, because like Dark, it may also venture into a multi-season journey covering many themes along the way. The acclaimed series stars:

  • Emily Beecham as Maura Franklin/Singleton,
  • Andreas Pietschmann as Eyk Larsen,
  • Aneurin Barnard as Daniel Solace,
  • Miguel Bernardeau as Ángel,
  • Yann Gael as Jérôme,
  • Isabella Wei as Ling Yi,
  • Gabby Wong as Yuk Je,
  • Rosalie Craig as Virginia Wilson, and
  • Mathilde Ollivier as Clémence, among others.

1899 is now streaming on Netflix.

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Edited by Abhipsa Choudhury