By Paul Risker.
The storytelling process in film and television is made up of perspectives. There are the perspectives from in front of and behind the camera as well as the voyeuristic perspective of the audience. While often an interview will engage with a single one of these perspectives, our conversation with both Jordskott’s Moa Gammel, the most recent incarnation of the Nordic and continental female detective, and the series’ producer Filip Hammarström, afforded us an opportunity to piece together the two perspectives from in front of and behind the camera.
The influx of Nordic Noir has become a phenomenon in and of itself, and yet equally just as crime dramas exploit the dynamic of the past and the present, Nordic Noir’s similarly to the cinema of the Korean New Wave reminds us that the international market is always living in the domestic market’s past. As Hammarström explained: “In Sweden we have been doing these crime stories for thirty years and so the international market has just discovered what we have been doing for a very long time. We wanted to step it up a notch and take the Swedish crime and Nordic Noir along to the next path that leads somewhere else.” As Jordskott continues the expansion of the Nordic Noir phenomenon, Hammarström and Gammel aim to transcend the style by carving themselves out a place on the international stage. But as both Gammel and Hammarström reflected, the forward momentum of Swedish crime and Nordic Noir needs to be at the forefront of the storytelling.
Why careers in storytelling? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?
Filip Hammarström (FH): Well I have been working in commercials for eight years and on the side I was always doing dramas and short films. The dream has always been to tell a greater story that you can’t really do in a shorter amount of time, and actually for a feature film as well. The TV series now in Sweden is blooming and people are willing to listen to a longer story that goes on for more than ten episodes, which is not just an episodical series, but more of a serialised drama where you have these longer lines of storytelling. When Henrik [Björn] the creator and writer of the show presented this to me, I felt this could be an intriguing story that could go on and on, and could keep you guessing and wondering what is going to be around the next corner. So I guess that was about three years ago when we started working on the series for real.
Moa Gammel (MG): For me, I think it was when I was cast as Annika in Pippi Långstrump at the royal dramatic theatre when I was around twelve years old. It was the first time I realised you could actually turn your passion into real work, and so I guess that was the turning point for me.
With the recent success of Swedish crime and the Nordic Noir phenomenon, did you feel any pressure in bringing Jordskott out onto the international stage to continue this trend?
FH: Well, for us it was important to take it to the next level. We wanted to step it up a notch and take the Swedish crime and Nordic Noir along to the next path that leads somewhere else. We really think Jordskott does that, and that’s where we want to take it: where does Swedish crime or Nordic Noir go next?
Picking up on this idea of where to go next, one of the intriguing aspects of storytelling is that there are only a limited number of archetypal stories. At this point in the evolution of human civilisation we have retold these stories time and again. Why do you think storytelling continues to not only endure but thrive?
MG: It is important to have a driving force that takes you forward. Storytelling should be about having some sort of movement that is always taking you to the next place; mixing insight and never standing still. And I guess that’s why crime dramas are popular because there is always something within that kind of storytelling that always pushes the story forward. It makes you want to know what happened, who did it and whether we are going to catch the murderer? But what is interesting with Jordskott is that we added this mystery-thriller element to it and that combination of storytelling with a new genre is something I feel proud that Jordskott is comprised of.
FH: Storytelling is of course always a sort of an escape from reality; you want to escape your regular boring old life with your job and the same places that you have to go to everyday. So when you get to go home you want to watch a TV series or a movie, that is an escape to another world that is not one you are experiencing. Of course this is what storytelling is and as long as we continue to write great stories that surprise you, then I think you will always end up in another place. It is sort of like travelling – you don’t want to go to the same hotel and the same pub every night. Some people do, but most people want to explore, and I think a TV series like this really does that for you.
While storytelling is centred upon interpersonal relationships, within certain genres there is often an interaction between the past and the present; the look back to the past and the way in which the past shapes the present. The best crime dramas play around with this dynamic and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on both incorporating this dynamic in Jordskott and of its place more broadly within the crime drama.
FH: You said it yourself; it is the personal touch of it. I think what the Nordic countries have done is to place more of an importance on why someone is being killed, and what drives this specific police officer to solve this specific case. Is it something in her background that makes her vulnerable or stronger as a character to solve this specific case? And if you know this information about her past then every look and expression upon her face tells that feeling and story – oh yeah, now she is thinking about this and now she is thinking about that. I think in our stories we have pauses where the character just thinks more than maybe in the American series’. If you know their backstory and what has happened in the past then you can sort of fill in what the character is thinking about, and that creates a much wider and deeper story.
Storytellers and actors are still looking back to silent storytelling, and from my perspective silence and sound continue to intertwine in a dance. From a producer and an actor’s perspective from the two sides of the camera, how do you view the use of sound in Jordskott and more broadly in modern storytelling?
MG: Have you seen Jordskott?
Only the pilot episode.
MG: Oh perfect, because in that episode you see that Eva is a character that you get to know while she’s on her own and while she’s inside of her own mind, when she’s not interacting with other people. Of course as an actress these were great scenes to shoot early on in the project because as an actor you also get to know the character from inside of her own mind in a way. I think it was good for the audience to follow her when she’s alone and to get to know her the same way that I as an actress got to know Eva – playing and portraying her as being alone, totally silent and inside of her own mind.
FH: Yeah, we definitely worked on that in the series and I would say the best imagination in the world is your own, because no one can ever paint a picture as you would in your own mind. So by having the silence and in keeping that then it sort of makes you create parts of the series for yourself. This works with silence because in those silent moments you close off at least one of the senses of your mind, and it makes you create for yourself what she’s thinking now or what she is planning to do. It is always the best option to have someone create their own world.
The audience are fundamentally your collaborators, and the crime drama is fertile ground for this collaborative relationship to flourish. The genre is built upon a game of cat and mouse in which questions are asked and things are revealed amidst acts of concealment.
MG: I think Jordskott has many elements that suggest something, suggest a possible solution or answer that makes it so much stronger than if you would arrive at it or come right out and say it. Just as you say, it is much more interesting to feel the illusion around the deluded feelings rather than to say things that are cliché. I think for every character it is a journey throughout, in which all of your possibilities, all of your doors are being shut one by one. In the end it is just you and what you are facing. This is the way storytelling is constructed in every kind of story and this is the case with my character Eva. The further the series goes along her options become narrower in what is definitely a game between her and the kidnapper of the children. So while Jordskott has those kinds of elements, it is not the typical crime story. As we have said before it has other layers and so I can’t really relate it to other crime stories because this one is different.
The spatial setting is intrinsically linked to the feel of any drama. Alongside the spatial setting, language or accent will also inevitably play a part in creating a certain sense of feeling. When you look abroad to foreign dramas and then return to dramas in your native language, do you see space and language as something that creates a distinct sense of feeling?
FH: Definitely, and one aspect is reading. Having subtitles on a series changes it a little for you, because by having to read the text you will always have a little bit more focus; you can’t miss anything. If you are watching a series in your own language then unfortunately as people do these days, they will be looking at their phone and they will be on Instagram and Facebook while they are watching it. But if you have to read the text then it keeps you focused on the series, which Jordskott really needs.
You can have languages which might be more aggressive or softer in tone. Norwegian, for example, is more up and down and happy, while Swedish has a more mellow tone to it. It might be a great way to have the audience experience this story through a mellow tone rather than an aggressive one, or neither way. The story is just told where it needs to be told.
I would say Sweden has its own look and feel. We took Sweden as a country and we wanted to also make a new universe from our own Swedish stories. I don’t think those stories are told in other places in the world, but there are similarities. So for us it was to have this setting and place that you recognise, but something is always off. You don’t really know what – I recognise this place but something is not quite right. This then unsettles with a sort of question mark for the whole time and this is exactly where we wanted the audience to be – asking questions. And then in that sense, they become more involved.
How do you both look back on the experience of making Jordskott, and how has it informed or influenced you in moving forward within your careers?
FH: For me, it is a huge step. This is the first series I have created or produced, and the interest from international companies and other channels is huge. For us to be able to have something to show what it is that we have created is a big success. I guess they will listen to us the next time because not having the experience, we did have a hard time convincing people that we were able to create something this big. We came to it from a different angle to what everyone else has done for the last fifty years.
MG: To be involved in a project in which everybody is passionate and has a strong conviction while trying to make something that hasn’t been made before…. To be involved in a project that is not made for the money aspect or the rational, but has something to do with passion is the kind of mindset that you always look for when you are accepting a project. I think we are all looking forward to maybe doing a second season and taking the insight with us that if you just make a project with enough passion, then the audience will feel it.
Jordskott is available to own from August 17th 2015 courtesy of ITV Studios Home Entertainment.
Paul Risker is a critic and writer for a number of on-line and print publications, including Little White Lies, Flickering Myth, Starburst Magazine, and VideoScope. He is currently based in the United Kingdom.