Anthracite: Is the Netflix Show Inspired by Actual Events?

Netflix’s French crime drama show ‘Anthracite’ unravels a mystery involving amateur criminal investigation, baffling cultish horrors, and a web of riddles to solve. The series follows a community in the Alps mountains where— thirty years ago— a village sect partook in collective ritualistic suicide. Since the incident had sparked enough conversation in 1994, its reappearance through the murder of a young woman, carried out in accordance with the old ritualistic deaths, leads to widespread speculation and worry. Therefore, once Jaro Gatsi, a troublemaker with a certain past, finds himself accused of the murder, he discovers unexpected help from the quirky true-crime enthusiast Ida, who is searching for her own missing father.

The story retains enthralling themes reminiscent of the true-crime genre with its band of web sleuths, the re-emergence of a time-oldened controversy, and an elusive mountainous cultish sect. As a result, these elements may attract the attention of real true-crime fans, inviting curiosity regarding the series’ connection to a true story.

Order of The Solar Temple and Anthracite: Secrets of the Sect

The events and characters explored within the narrative of ‘Anthracite’ (also known as ‘Anthracite: Secrets of the Sect’) are fictionalized elements penned by screenwriters Maxime Berthemy and Fanny Robert. Even so, the show retains a tangible inspiration in real life that one can trace back to the 1995 collective suicides that took place in the French Alps.

In an interview discussing their show, the writing duo divulged Robert’s upbringing around Grenoble, the region near the Vercors plateau, where the 1995 deaths had taken place. Consequently, Robert’s creativity ended up borrowing from the influence of growing up surrounded by such stories of cult sects and their horrifying rituals. Therefore, even though the show doesn’t directly replicate or recreate this real-life instance, its relevance to the plot remains evident.

According to reports from December 1995, authorities discovered the bodies of 16 individuals in the forests of the French Alps. Although all sixteen victims were burnt to a char, fourteen of them seemed to be displayed in a star formation. The public prosecutor involved with the case, Jean-Francois Lorans, spoke about the incident at the time and shared, “It looks like some kind of collective suicide. The bodies are in a site that is hard to get to, in a position that suggests some bizarre ritual.”

Furthermore, the deaths held an eerie resemblance to other rituals that claimed numerous victims led by a doomsday cult, identified to be the Order of the Solar Temple. The doomsday cult, founded in Geneva under Luc Jouret and Joseph De Mambro in 1984, was known to be populated by wealthy individuals whose affluence allowed the cult to hold lucrative real-estate assets in Switzerland and Canada. Eventually, the group’s numbers started to fray— due to the murder-suicides. For the same reason, the common belief remains that the group holds around 140 and 500 members as of the 21st century.

Thus, the cult depicted in the show shares some evident resemblance to the Order of the Solar Temple cult that reigned terror in the mid-1980s to late 1990s. However, the show’s central plot point— revolving around Ida and Jaro’s misadventures with the cult— remains a fictionalized storyline without any tangible connection to the OTS cult. For the most part, this aspect of the narrative finds its origins in the screenwriters Robert and Berthemy’s interests in the modern concept of web sleuthing and true crime. The concept— of anonymous internet users pouring into crimes that the police are investigating has a root in reality.

Nevertheless, the specifics of Ida and Jaro’s characters and their entanglement with the deadly cult hold no relevance to potential real-life counterparts. Consequently, while the plot echoes the tragedy surrounding the OTS cult, specifically the murder-suicides they carried out in Vercors in 1995— it only informs a brief element of the narrative. Other aspects of the tale— such as the cult’s contemporary resurgence— remain entirely fictitious in nature with little connections to real life. Ultimately, with some true-story-inspired components behind it, the show charts a fictional story only partially inspired by reality.

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