Archive 81 aired on Netflix in early 2022 and its two plot threads, which become more and more entangled with each episode, are set in the present and in the mid-90s. The film archivist and restorer Dan is asked to restore highly damaged video tapes on a remote estate. The tapes contain footage PhD student Melody filmed for her dissertation project about an apartment building and its (eccentric) inhabitants. While working on the tapes in the loneliness of the estate, whose unchanged interior fittings and architecture make it a time capsule of its own, Dan also reflects on his past and finds connections between the story of Melody and his own. Commentaries and reviews of the supernatural horror series often discussed whether the series should be classified belonging to the genre of mystery rather than horror. While the series tends towards mystery in terms of content, the cinematic means employed often draw on and call to mind horror films. Instead of plunging into the discussion of genre (which might simply be solved by labeling Archive 81 a mystery/horror series), this introductory talk will delve into an obvious but overlooked subject of the series: the archive, the materiality of film and the self-reflection of film as a medium. Looking into how the series works against the backdrop of film as medium might also shed light on why it did not work out in the end and was already canceled after one season.
Isis Luxenburger is a doctoral researcher at the chair of North American Literary and Cultural Studies at Saarland University, where she also teaches classes on industrial film, industrial aesthetics and industrial culture. Her research interests include the cultural studies of (industrial) films and, in general, investigating research subjects rooted in other disciplines—especially Film Studies, Game Studies, Border Studies and Translation Studies—from a Cultural Studies perspective. She is currently working on her interdisciplinary dissertation project on the mediation of industrial culture in films on the heavy industry in the Canadian province of Quebec and the Greater Region SaarLorLux, which was awarded the research prize “Interregionale Forschungsförderung / Soutien interrégional à la recherché” of the Greater Region.