Broaden Your Horizons – 8 Great International Shows to Explore on Netflix Australia

Andrew Buckle,

Are you an adventurous viewer in need of some inspiration? Are you someone looking to satisfy a travel bug? Are you looking to get more out of your Netflix subscription?

By digging a little deeper into the Netflix catalogue you will find some truly fantastic international shows that you won’t find anywhere else. Below are just some that we highly recommend if you’ve been searching for something a little bit different.

Green Frontier (Colombia)

Frontera Verde [Green Frontier] is the first Colombian series commissioned by Netflix and the story aligns a viewer with a young detective, Helena (Juana Del Rio), who travels with her partner deep into the Amazon to investigate a series of bizarre murders. They soon realize that there’s more intrigue to the jungle than the homicides, as they come across a mysterious indigenous tribe with a secret that they are desperate to protect.

Adventurous viewers with an interest in deep-jungle mysteries and more specifically, the history and superstitions of the indigenous tribes of South America, will find plenty to admire in this beautifully photographed, immersive and authentic look at a world rarely depicted on screen.

For the crime buffs it serves as a suffocating and humid detective thriller with a supernatural twist, nimbly shifting into exploring the tenuous link between the human world and the spiritual realm. The cast is uniformly game and convincing in carrying the unusual premise.

1983 (Poland)  

Netflix’s first Polish original series, 1983, is a cracker. Set in an alternate timeline in which the fall of the communist Polish People’s Republic never occurred and the Iron Curtain is still in place.

Society here is run by ‘The Party’, a privileged elite who hold excellent economic position. The “Brigade of Light” oppose the leadership, having broken out of the consumerist populace to partake in acts of resistance. The politics of 1983 mirror some Western countries, casting a light in particular on the crisis of democracy.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of this series is the atmosphere built from the set design and the locations. This is a chilly, grim-grey Warsaw with Soviet-era architecture pressed up against modern instruments of police and control. One of the series’ directors, Agnieszka Holland, is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker (In Darkness, 2011). There is a really striking attention to detail and a veteran craftsmanship to every second of this thrilling series.

Equinox (Denmark)  

In 1999, nine-year-old Astrid is traumatized by the mysterious disappearance of her sister Ida during her high school graduation celebration. Twenty-one years later, and still suffering from nightmares and horrific visions, Astrid decides to investigate after she receives an unexpected call, and warning, from one of the survivors.

Appearing in the lead role of Astrid is Danica Curcic (TV’s The Mist and Silent Heart) and it is a sympathetic portrayal of a woman with a hole in her heart and a desperate need for answers. As Astrid pursues this mystery, the many threads she pulls on put pressure on her already-fragile sanity and further jeopardises her relationship with her estranged family and friends.

As the events of the past are revealed, and Astrid stumbles closer to the truths she seeks in the present day, we do see these parallel stories integrate into some brilliant episode-ending cliff-hangers. Equinox goes to some creepy, unexpected places and is sure to spark some obsessive theory-crafting. 

Deadwind (Finland)

Fans of Nordic noir series such as The Killing will surely love Karppi [Deadwind], an icy Finnish thriller with a compelling central protagonist and some jaw-dropping set pieces. After Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala) returns to the Helsinki Police Department, where she serves as a gifted homicide detective, a routine disappearance case becomes a puzzling murder investigation.

Karppi and her rookie partner Nurmi (Lauri Tilkanen) make for a likeable detective pairing. Nurmi is ambitious and wants to toe the line and advance up the ranks, but his experiences on the case soon see him humbly learning from his naivety, challenging his philosophies and questioning how far he would go to support Karppi’s unique methods. Karppi is trying to keep her head; dealing with this baffling new case and trying to distance it from her children, who are struggling to accept their father’s recent unexpected death.

There are two seasons currently available on Netflix Australia. It is highly addictive end-to-end.

Kingdom (South Korea)

Kingdom is South Korea’s first original Netflix series and one of the boldest moves by Netflix so far. The Zombie genre – spearheaded by the runaway, though swiftly weakening, success of The Walking Dead – is arguably over-saturated. But, by pairing those gruesome body-horror terrors with the sociopolitical intrigue of Joseon, South Korea’s Kingdom is as exciting an addition as we have seen in a while.

The plot of the first season is set three years after the Imjin War and follows Crown Prince Lee Chang and his subordinates, who encounter an unnatural plague that resurrect the dead. Amidst the confusion and their struggle to survive, Chang aligns with civilian allies to try to make a stand in the city-state of Sangiu.

There are expertly choreographed action sequences – most notably nail-biting chases – as the heroes and the townsfolk they are attempting to rescue flee the hordes of the infected. Richly detailed with epic sets, impressive practical effects, a propulsive musical score and an enormous cast of extras, this is a blockbuster production. There is also an eerie relevance to contemporary times, with the barricading governors caught up in uncovering corruption from within as the already-suffering populace falls prey to a swiftly-spreading plague.

Black Spot (France-Belgium)

This Grim (with a capital G) French procedural thriller, which details a string of grisly crimes and eerie phenomena in an isolated forest town, rivals some prestige HBO series on a technical level. Full of surprises, and a deft blurring of real-world horrors with supernatural intervention, the two seasons of Black Spot serve up a smorgasbord of atmospheric mood-setting, nightmarish deep-forest night-time visuals and stressful crime fables.

Police-Major Laurène Weiss (Suliane Brahim) is the head of the Gendarmerie of her hometown of Villefranche, a small, isolated, fictional mountain town surrounded by a 50,000-acre forest. The series opens with the arrival of Prosecutor Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto), who is determined to launch an investigation into Laurène’s clouded past.

While there is a season-spanning narrative, each episode does deal with an isolated case, with most possessing a connection to the mysterious forests that surround the town. Incidents from the past continue to haunt individuals, notably Laurène, and sinister tales long dismissed, as myths rear their head and give twists on how the locals view their hometown.

The camaraderie that grows amongst the members of Laurène’s office, and between Laurène and Franck does offer some quieter, even humorous, moments. While Black Spot is a dark and at times unforgiving show, there are enough lighter moments to allow viewers to take a breath and enjoy spending time with these characters.

Dark (Germany)

German sci-fi thriller series Dark is a brain-burner of the most extreme. It is a gargantuan puzzle of a show that meticulously crafts a strange, fascinating and often terrifying mythos, and subverts conventions around time travel. It may frustrate some viewers, but it may get the mind ticking obsessively for others. Either way, there’s no denying that Dark is a feat of creativity and commitment to a vision.

After children start vanishing from the fictional German town of Winden, the fractured relationships and dark pasts of four families unfurl a mystery that spans four generations. When members of the families become aware of a wormhole in the cave system beneath the nuclear power plant, their fates become embroiled in a conspiracy involving the history of the town and a future Apocalyptic event.

Dark’s first season feels like some of the most ambitious television ever created. Subsequent seasons dial up the complexity even more, straying into bizarre territory you fear they’ll never be able to reign in and make sense of. Somehow, they do. If you’re hunting achievements, binge all three seasons of Dark back-to-back. Dark has a grandiosity that few shows have reached. Fans of Twin Peaks, Stranger Things and the temporal-manipulation of Christopher Nolan films will love it.

Babylon Berlin (Germany)

Finally, the magnum opus of International TV – Babylon Berlin. With every episode possessing the technical scope and extravagant period recreation of a blockbuster film, not to mention a sublime narrative long game, this is a gift for subscribers.

Set in Berlin during the latter years of the Weimar Republic, the series, which is based on the novels by Volker Kutscher, centrally follows Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), a police inspector from Cologne who is assigned to a secret mission to dismantle an extortion ring, and Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), a police clerk and ‘flapper’ who has aspirations to also become an inspector.

What brings this series home for us is the sense of humanity. The show-runners clearly love this period, but they also love the characters in Kutscher’s stories. Gereon is a shell-shocked combat veteran who suffers from morphine addiction linked to his experiences. There is an ever-present tension to this ailment as he must hide his demons from his superiors. To support her suffering family Charlotte secretly moonlights as a prostitute at a cabaret. She represents the newfound freedom of women of this era and has the natural instincts and the confidence to break through the male-dominant world of law-enforcement, but still faces strict discrimination. It is through Rath and his unorthodox methods that she is able to gain field experience. It is the bond the two form that becomes the beating heart of the show.

The first two seasons have such an expansive narrative that the tension created by the political division, and where that ultimately leads, organically becomes a backdrop to it all. The third series, which incorporates some slasher elements in a subplot to jeopardise the production of a new sound film, felt very different. Babylon Berlin has already achieved so much it is exciting to imagine where the now-anticipated fourth season can go from here.

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