There must be a one in million chance of scoring a perfect cast, which Dark did—but Louis Hofmann’s portrayal of Jonas took us on a whirlwind of a journey.
When you have a beefy character like Jonas (Louis Hofmann) on your hands, it’s quite easy to play him as the angsty angst-fest Harry Potter was in The Order of the Phoenix. And yes, the jury’s still out on whether or not it was worse in the film or in the books. But kudos to the script-writers and Hofmann for portraying a real, normal yet traumatised teenager escaping from unbelievable grief. Only to step foot into a whole new world of crazy.
One would’ve been mistaken by the writers’ intent on playing Jonas as the direct copy of his father, Mikkel. And in all the television we’ve seen this year, Hofmann’s synergy with the script was maybe the most perfect example of it. For a good portion of the last third of the season, we genuinely thought Jonas would commit suicide as his father did. His descent into his mind being completely broken by this time-travel bananas, plus his heart-breaking hug-almost-goodbye with his mother (Maja Schöne) must’ve been red-herrings. Yet we fell for them fair and square.
In a cast filled to the brim with not only excellently casted youth but captivating adults, it’s hard to shine. There are no flashy performances. Only raw, gritty and real. But rewatch the season again and the sickening shock, the genuine heartbreak and the awed horror Hofmann plays so well in nearly every scene he’s in is exceptional.
We must say, for the sake of a scene-stealer article, Hofmann truly deserves it. But really, the entire cast stole ‘cast of 2017’. Because that was some pummelling television they produced.
Hofmann’s organic, scrappy depiction of Jonas was what made it so special: Jonas felt real.
There are only very small things that define Hofmann and Jonas as just that much more real than fiction. The way Jonas sprints through the forest, stumbling clumsily in his heart-wrenching horror, is a physical and emotional punch. Almost all of Jonas’ decisions are not born of bravery but rather curiosity and the teenage impulse for answers. We have to take a step back and remember how utterly crazy this sounds. We’re sure Ulrich will agree with us.
But it’s not the individual performances that Hofmann impresses us with. It’s the continual building sense of dread. Because we know what will happen to Jonas eventually. Yet we’re watching a naive young Jonas blindly navigate his way through this confusing space-time wormhole. As solid as Hofmann’s performance is from the get-go (like anybody else’s: understated, quiet, but immensely moving) it’s after he discovers the wormhole that Hofmann really kicks things up about five gears.
And as stated before, it’s difficult to pick not just amongst the cast of impeccably talented youths in this production. We have surely award-winning performances from the adults too, especially in Oliver Masucci’s Ulrich and Karoline Eichhorn’s Charlotte.
But Hofmann is different. It’s inexplicable. When he looks like he’s about to dry-heave or collapse because all of these shenanigans, you feel it pulsate within you. It’s an understated, uncelebrated but ultimately genius performance. And one we hope audiences tune in to, and won’t forget.
It’s easy to lose yourself in Hofmann’s innocent eyes—and that’s the trick. You do. And when you watch that youthfulness drain from him, it’s heartbreaking.
You can’t really get more traumatic than a douchebag of a mother (seriously, Hannah!) and a father who recently committed suicide. Returning to school, Hofmann’s Jonas is insecure, vulnerable and frowned upon as a freak. He even refers to himself as being ‘in the nuthouse’ at one point. That’s what he sees rehabilitation as. It’s clearly bothering him, so the prospect of throwing him into more mind-bending bonanza is obviously the right dramatic road to steer down.
And Hofmann doesn’t take it lightly. His burgeoning romance with Martha is maybe the light in his grey life, and it lasts for all but a couple of episodes. However, it’s not because Martha’s still in love with his best friend or they just don’t feel the sparks. It’s because of a grossly Jon/Dany situation (Game of Thrones) he discovers. The heartbreak in his flat attempt at pushing away a girl he truly likes is understandable to us, and quietly agonising. It’s nothing over-the-top dramatic. It’s this abhorrent loneliness that seems to be cast over him. And the awful thing is: Martha or anybody else has no idea about Jonas’ findings. He’s completely isolated with the knowledge of the past in his mind. Is it any wonder Mikkel finally killed himself?
Largely, Hofmann’s performance has been consistently impressive throughout. But breaking through the cusp of exceptional is the instant he finds out Mikkel is his father. The simultaneous disgust, disbelief, horror, shock and indescribable lack of understanding expertly dances over Hofmann’s innocent, young face. It’s an overload that should never occur to someone so young and so good. Yet Hofmann’s big moment of drama is impeccable to a tee.
His chemistry with the other teens and ability to commandeer a scene with any of the actors is something to applaud.
Hofmann’s character could easily be written off as completely bonkers and borderline funny in a sick way. But the way Hofmann delivers this quote in devastating fashion when Jonas realises the truth is unmistakeably heartbreaking:
Jonas: “Now I have another grandma, and she’s the principal of my school. Her husband, who’s f*****g my mom, is looking for his son, who’s my father! A few days ago I kissed my aunt!”
Would you believe us if we said that was a complete understatement of the sheer trauma Jonas has been through in order to discover all of this? The dialogue is so absurd is should be funny. But the way Hofmann delivers it in such destructive, devastating fashion makes humour impossible to enter the equation. The situation Jonas is in is more than bizarre. And for Jonas, who’s had pulsating chemistry with Lisa Vicari’s Martha as well as best friend Paul Lux (Bartosz), it’s immensely hurtful to see him forced to push away those relationships.
Ultimately, he remains alone. And it’s not a stretch to say that with everything he discovers from Mikkel and his supposed past—or future, or present—that it nudges him ever closer to the same fate Mikkel gave himself. Why wouldn’t it? Slow-motion suicide. And it’s so cleverly depicted in the way he stops taking his medication, and he bids farewell to his mother, and he cuts his friends loose.
Everything Hofmann does is raw and truly visceral, but we’ll say it now: there really wasn’t a better young actor this year aside from him and Dark’s cast.
FINAL VERDICT: Dark’s humungous ensemble never really allowed for a true lead, but in Hofmann’s Jonas, we find ourselves a young adult hero we’re desperate to follow.
Within every show, there’s always someone sneaking about stealing each scene. So imagine our surprise when every scene was stolen by the actor or actress in it, rather unapologetically. It’s probably the most diplomatic, fair display of unity across all media, politics and news this year! Genuinely, the younger stars matched the older stars and vice versa equally. There are not many shows where you can say the entire cast was perfectly matched to their roles. Alas, we will say that of Dark, because we tell the truth.
Louis Hofmann taking the crown does not mean to lessen the importance and impressiveness of the general cast in itself. There isn’t a performance that is lacking at all. Whether you hate X or love Y character—it doesn’t matter. Each one was played to a tee, and Hofmann’s youthful curiosity meshed in with Jonas’ inevitable tragedy was as hard to swallow as the rest of the series.
His portrayal made us uncomfortable and worried, just like the series. And just like the series, we’re prepared for a meteoric rise.
If anything, just give young Hofmann some sort of award for being drenched in the pouring rain 24/7!
DARK is available now on NETFLIX.
Louis Hofmann’s quiet depiction of Jonas’ descent into despair, shock and disgust is raw, understated genius. It cannot be easy to wring out such a stunning performance as Hofmann has, but it is undoubtedly Hofmann who expertly brings us along with Jonas’ traumatic journey through his easy affability. 2018—here’s one to look out for.