Why Netflix’s Black Space should be your next box set
Helen Archer | On 24, Oct 2021
Israel has been producing some interesting drama of late. From False Flags to Fauda – which the BDS urged viewers to boycott – much of its output involves controversial yet fascinating insights into inhabiting a society with a backdrop of violence. Black Space, despite its brutal opening, is more subdued than some of those high-octane thrillers, an altogether quieter – although no less mutinous – affair.
The low-key, high-concept drama, created by Anat Gafni and Sahar Shavit, begins at a high school assembly. Shooters wearing unicorn masks break up the gathering shockingly and murderously, before disappearing. The police’s first instinct, after they have secured the area, is to blame the incident on Palestinian tradesmen who were working on the roof of the building – the police chief is not above hitting the suspects about the face before coercing a confession out of them. But when it becomes increasingly clear that the men are innocent, police are forced to confront the possibility that some of the students themselves are behind the attack.
This set-up gives the viewer the next seven episodes to get to know the teenagers and their milieu. These are kids who are old beyond their years, and who know that graduating high school, for most, means forced conscription into the military. Some are fighting against this rigid authoritarianism, which is directed at them from both their elders and peers. Their languorous, heat-sodden days are spent hanging out in a dusty vacant lot, deserted save for a few old chairs, where they pepper their gossip with casual cruelty.
There is, too, an unspoken but clear class divide – while some laze around by their pool, others are working late into the night in their after-school jobs. The students clearly have a lot of history, intensified by a mysterious traumatic event in the past, which leaves some long-standing, lingering mutual suspicions.
The understated yet powerful performances by the younger cast only serve to highlight just how over-the-top the subplot, involving lead detective Rami Davidi (Guri Alf), is. Having attended the same school he is now investigating, under the same headmaster, he himself was the victim of a violent attack in his early years, resulting in the loss of an eye. He – of course – becomes obsessed with the case, missing crucial hospital appointments with his heavily pregnant wife, Miri – a thankless role, with which Reut Alush does her best. But the gulf between the clueless police and the more savvy young people does serve, at least, to highlight the generational gap, with the older characters grappling with the inscrutability and apparent lack of empathy of the youths.
The detective methods throughout are questionable. Although it soon becomes common knowledge that police suspect the shooters are students at the school, they nonetheless insist that students return to class, with the unidentified murderers in their midst. Police think that the students will air their suspicions on social media, so stay glued to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, hoping to find something incriminating. The Black Space of the title refers to a secret social networking site the students use, and which the police seek to infiltrate in order to solve the crime. Suffice to say, suspension of belief is an essential requirement.
Obviously all this could be seen as a parable about what it’s like living in this particular country at this particular time, navigating a culture that fosters inhumanity and a degree of barbarity, and the young people attempting to defy it. While we’re not entirely sure it’s all that deep, what you can rely on is a highly bingeable and absorbing box set.
Black Space is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.