Netflix is branching out into previously unknown territory with its new show, Marseille, its first original series in a language besides English. The show is not only shot entirely in a foreign language, it is also filmed entirely in France. This kind of ambition shows just how confident, and justifiably so, Netflix is in its original series. Given that the idea of a Netflix series was brand new not very many years ago it is reassuring to see that it has been a successful gamble. Even more so, Netflix is clearly not content to simply rest on its laurels and is trying new things.
The show will apparently follow trends that have become very popular in recent television, and have always been in high demand in the entertainment industry. Power, corruption, crime, redemption and everything else involved with politics and public prominence. While the dynamics of power, public sway, and personal intrigue may sound something like Game of Thrones , this show seems to be much more akin to House of Cards. That move is not surprising considering the huge success of House of Cards which was the original Netflix original series.
Several details about the plot of the show have been released and look like a recipe for excellent content and undoubtedly a lot of bingewatching. Revenge, while usually best served cold, appears in the forefront of the show and drives much of the stories conflict. It is important to note that while this is a political drama, the producers and directors have made sure to guide the story to be largely character driven. A move becoming more and more common in media that is revealing a heightened awareness and desire for higher tier content in their viewing. Alongside revenge there will be drug lords, corrupt politicians, good guys, bad guys, unions, socialites attempting to sway the direction of the city, and much more.
Netflix is aiming to create much more than a show, according to Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos. “A series that erases the line between film and television,” were the words Sarandos chose to use for the series, and that statement seems to be in line with much of what Netflix has been doing in recent months. Clearly the company is aiming at moving away from traditional media in which shows, movies, and miniseries are all disconnected. The continuations and additions to Marvel’s persistent universe echo that progressive sentiment in that various series will meld and build off each other, while in Marseille the aim appears to be a series with the quality of film.
In addition, Sardanos named the show as “diabolically smart,” which further illustrates Netflix’s goal to deliver high quality content to its subscribers. As streaming media becomes more ingrained in the daily life of many people people are no longer looking for escapist media but instead want to be stimulated, made to solve the riddles and guess what will happen next in an uncertain story arc.
The promise of a smart and engrossing story is backed up by writer Dan Franck, who has received a Golden Globe for his work along with two Primetime Emmy’s. The director of the first two episodes is FlorentEmilio Siri, who has called the series something close to a writer’s dream. The director clearly shares Netflix’s goal to heighten the value of content available to viewers, having said that French cinema is at the moment essentially limited to comedy and this series offers an opportunity to draw the audience to a new level of entertainment.
The show centers around the character Robert Taro, who has held his place as mayor of Marseille for 25 years. Gerard Depardieu has accepted to be the figurehead of the series as the mayor and can certainly be counted on to deliver a stirring performance. He is after all, one of the most prolific character actors in the history of film. Having taken on around 170 movies since 1967 is not his only accomplishment, he is also a cultural ambassador of Montenegro and is a Chevalier of both the Ordre national du Merite and the Legion d’honneur. Clearly he can be counted on to draw the audience deep into the show.
His character, Taro, is faced with an upcoming election in which a young and popular man with deep personal connections to Taro is running against him. This old vs. new arc is layered and bears many implications for the show. Not only does it bear weight for the real world, outside the show, in which social change is sweeping the entire globe as a new generation with new technology gains a louder and stronger voice. It could also be something of a nod from Netflix itself, a company that has undoubtedly put major pressure on traditional film and television industries as well as cable and traditional means of delivery.
The writers are well aware of this and promoting it, Siri has personally made it clear that this is a show that will be deeply character centered and will differ from other series in that it will not sacrifice deep story development for the sake of pacing alone. This is a brave move for any artist as action almost certainly keeps viewers intrigued, but a deep story leaves a much more lasting impact and brings people coming back to watch more.
This show, while in French, is not made just for French speaking people. While the show is set almost entirely in Marseille and filmed in France the goal is not to exclude everyone else. Instead the show wants to present the story from a uniquely French viewpoint and offer viewers a chance to broaden their own perspectives by witnessing a story unfold through a viewpoint much different than their own.
Netflix has given huge creative freedom to the team responsible for making the show a reality and with a brand new project guided by a deeply enthusiastic, successful team it seems clear that Netflix has lined themselves up for a foreign language grandslam that may even open up audiences to other works outside their comfort zone.