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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

High Seas (Netflix, 2019)


I have often wondered what an Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of Agatha Christie would look like, and I think that we've got closest to an answer in the most unexpected thing: a Spanish Netflix miniseries. Netflix has released High Seas (or Alta Mar) worldwide with dubbing - but do yourself a favour and stick to subtitles. The English dubbing is so, so unbelievably bad that I was praying the traffic accident in the first 20 seconds would be the end of the story. However, once I'd switched to Spanish, I happily endured the remaining 9 hours of silliness.

It’s the late 1940s, and a bunch of rich pretty people with dark secrets board a majestic ship sailing from Spain to Brazil. On the way to the harbour, two yo
ung women, Caroline and Eva, almost run over a third, harassed and anxious young woman, who says they need to get her on board or she will die. A tricky enough proposition but ten times trickier when Caroline is engaged to marry the owner of the sealine (is sealine a word? I mean the maritime equivalent of an airline).

Of course, no sooner is the intruder safely stowed when she starts acting very suspiciously, and then disappears. There’s a scream, a splash, and a murder investigation. Then, despite the close quarters in which all action takes place – namely, a moving ship – we also manage to plough through more murder, manslaughter, arson, divorce, adultery, rape, fraud, dancing, identity theft, suicide, deformity, false imprisonment, corrupt police investigations, and, of course, lashings and lashings of Nazi gold, all culminating in an on-board wedding at which, somehow an elaborate antique wedding dress that had burnt to a cinder has been repaired below-deck in two days to look even more stunning than before. Do not take High Seas seriously. It is the very definition of escapism, and all the better for it.

There is absolutely no innovation in this story. All the women are young and beautiful. LGBTQIA people do not exist. The rich are kind and clever or corrupt and greasy and the poor are either simple-but-honest or resentful-and-destructive. It's set in the late 1940s, and in many ways feels as if it was made in that time, although there is a bit of standing up to abusive men. The main thing here is getting swept up in the pretty sets and costumes, the swinging melodrama (exhibit A is the bride's arrival at the wedding), and the many out-of-field plot twists.

In the final episode, about sixty per cent of loose ends have been tied up but we still have a lot of questions. And then, in the last two minutes, everything changes again and about a zillion new storylines are opened up. Spanish media reports that the second series of HIGH SEAS is currently being filmed, and the telenovela-style storytelling combined with Hitcockian suspense, silliness, and cinematography will ensure a loyal audience.

META MATTERS

Eva is a writer.

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