The production conditions of this series are important. “In order to support Ukrainian creators, ZDFNeo has decided to include ‘Hide & Seek’ in the program at a short time,” says the press file. According to Nadine Belk, President of ZDFNeo, “Hide & Seek” is the first licensed Eastern European series to celebrate this programme’s first free-to-air TV show. ZDF Studios co-produced “Gefahrliches Versteckspiel”, as ZDF’s translation is called, with FilmUA Group and successfully sold it in many markets. Co-producer Katerina Vishnevska says it is more important than ever “to reach the largest possible number of people for Ukrainian stories to enable the preservation of Ukrainian cultural heritage”.
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Hide & Seek was broadcast on Ukrainian TV in 2019, long before the Russian army invaded the neighboring country. But involuntarily you look at the eight parts with different eyes than any other production series from another country. Viewers look at Ukraine, for most of them, the unknown land. Story and appearance do not present a friendly image of the country and society. In a small industrial town, whose background is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia, a pair of police officers must search for missing children. Images are mostly cut by power lines, the ground looks damaged, people do not convey the joy of life, the optics are bleak, too bleak.
[ „Hide & Seek“, ZDFNeo, Samstag, ab 22 Uhr, acht Folgen; ab 12. Juni in der ZDF-Mediathek]
Detective Varta Naumova (Yulia Abdelfattah) and her colleague Maxim Shumov (Pyotr Rykov) must find the children, one by one, as they disappear. Could the Church of the Immaculate Nativity be behind the kidnappings? Leading their pursuit by a police officer through the underworld and shadow realms, the series does not provide its audience with the inconvenience of shocking visuals.
Among all the missing and crossed out, Varta and Maxim hardly stand out. They both went through painful experiences in their lives, in their youth, which is why the condition affects them on a deeper level. Varta was raped and became pregnant while a student. She gave the child up for adoption. Maxim’s father still blamed his son for the death of the youngest son. The father, a former police chief, is drinking and is in a wheelchair. Author Seymour Glasenko shows that people are in despair of their existence, run and escape seem to be blocked, people treat one another harshly to brutally, and the fact that corruption has eroded deeply in the police and judiciary casts the scene in an even more oppressive light. Director Irina Gromozda collects a group of battered people, fifty shades of gray.
Ruthless cops, lost
Yulia Abdel-Fattah and Pyotr Rykov directed their characters at powerful police officers and people lost in themselves. There is no screeching sound, there are signs of helplessness and a willingness to use violence, life has haunted a woman and a man who can’t control each other – and probably never will.
The reviewer cannot determine whether “Hide & Seek” is pure fiction or if it depicts reality in Ukraine. What can he say: This is a thriller series that delivers what the ambitious thriller series promises: suspense and guesswork to the end, explanations of why Varta always wears gloves, and a sigh of relief because justice awaits her at the finish line.
Noir series without a touch of mystery
Of course, you see Hide & Seek from a different angle than you would have seen before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Series noir without a touch of mystery, barely any distance in view of the camera (Serhij Krutko), bluish interiors, country and people seem post-Soviet, walking their lives like robots. No, this chain type does not make you want to go to Ukraine.
But, here’s where the current topic comes in: giving up doesn’t matter. Not in this fantasy, neither in a besieged, canteen country, nor with these people.