Tag Archives: Christoffer Boe

Facing the truth

A father’s desperate attempt to uncover the truth about his daughter’s death takes Danish drama Forhøret (Face to Face) beyond the traditional Nordic noir tropes.

It might seem hard to imagine how shooting intense scenes in a small room as one character interrogates the other about the possible murder of his daughter could ever be funny. But as director Christoffer Boe says, Forhøret (Face to Face) isn’t your standard Nordic crime drama

The Danish director has teamed up again with executive producer Jonas Allen of Miso Film to create a show they promise will blow the lid off not only the Nordic noir genre as we know it, but also crime drama in general. The duo previously worked on the critically acclaimed scripted drama Kriger (Warrior), Boe’s first foray into TV after a celebrated career in filmmaking.

Going beyond the basic whodunnit premise of many crime dramas, the Copenhagen-set series sees police officer Bjørn (Ulrich Thomsen) not only investigate his daughter’s death but also question his reality and what kind of man he was to his daughter and ex-wife.

Christoffer Boe

Distributed by Fremantle, the eight-parter opens with Bjørn going to the coroner with a dental card to identify a young woman. But he is left reeling when he discovers it’s his own daughter lying on the autopsy table. Her death is recorded as suicide, but Bjørn believes otherwise and begins to look into her life. His investigation sends him on a whirlwind journey through the city’s underbelly, where he encounters a variety of characters who meant something to his daughter and uncovers a tangled web of truths, lies and criminality.

So far, so noir – but don’t refer to it as such in front of Boe, who bristles at the suggestion, even though Nordic noir dramas such as Wallander and Forbrydelsen (The Killing) put the region on the global drama map.

Despite bucking industry trends with a running time of just four hours, Face to Face still manages to get under the skin of a city, unravel a family’s hidden secrets and paint a picture of a man coming to terms with his guilt as a parent and husband.

Boe wanted to keep the aesthetic very simple, believing that the naturalistic feel helps the show to get into Bjørn’s psyche. “I’ll be intrigued if people try to call this a Nordic noir crime series… it’s something you haven’t seen in a Nordic noir drama,” he says.

Face to Face provides no backstory or flashbacks, creating “a new stylistic structure, and it’s a strict structure,” says Boe, with each of the eight episodes centering on Bjørn’s interrogations of the people connected to his daughter. The filming process pushed all involved to their limits, often shooting up to 15 pages of dialogue a day, but Boe says there were many light-hearted moments.

For example, on one of the first days of production, a character was required to smoke a cigarette. “Nowadays, we have to use these safety cigarettes that don’t contain any nicotine but still produce smoke,” he says. “We noticed after a while that the actor’s voice began to sound a bit funny, and he admitted, ‘When I smoke these things, I sometimes lose my voice.’”

Ulrich Thomsen plays the lead role of Bjørn in Face to Face

The actor did eventually lose his voice, but the show had to go on and he somehow managed to get through his 12 pages of dialogue. “You just have to laugh at the situation,” says Boe, who managed to find a silver lining: “His raspy voice gave something completely new to the character, so it ended up a good thing.”

And while the desire to make something unique put the cast and crew under pressure, Boe says a sense of levity on set was crucial: “We wanted to use all the tricks of the trade to try to make it interesting and dynamic, but it also needed to be playful. We needed the characters to have fun together so that it’s more than just an interrogation, it’s also developing the characters and their relationships.”

The pressure was intensified by the production’s quick turnaround, with just one week allocated to film each episode. As such, there was little room for error or any tweaking of scripts.

Working alongside Boe on those scripts was acclaimed playwright Jakob Weis (Fred til Lands), who jumped at the opportunity to join the project after being sought out by Miso Film’s Allen. Weis’s theatre background was critical to not only enhancing the concept, but also ensuring the dialogue felt as natural as possible.

“He was able to use his theatre background to write these long dialogues. To keep it dynamic and keep the characters fascinating, we really needed to have that kind of scriptwriter,” Allen says.

Other Danish acting heavyweights among the cast include Trine Dyrholm

Boe adds: “Jakob told me, ‘If you can provide me with the crime elements, I can make it interesting, no problem.’”

This dream team of writers and producers was able to also attract the very best of Danish acting talent. Ulrich Thomsen (The Blacklist, Counterpart) leads the cast as Bjørn, alongside fellow high-profile Danes including Lars Mikkelsen (pictured top), Trine Dyrholm, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and David Denick – an ensemble Boe believes will blow viewers away.

“It’s intense and fun because it is something none of us had tried before, and I think the actors are trying something different too,” says Boe, who won the Camera d’Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival for his first feature, Reconstruction.

The director had Thomsen in mind for the lead from the outset. “Bjørn is particularly sculpted and made for Ulrich,” he says. “When you see what he does with that role, it’s so obvious we made the right choice.”

Meanwhile, having worked with Boe on Kriger, Allen immediately said yes to Face to Face, which Boe first pitched a few years ago and has been developing ever since. “The beauty of Face to Face was not only the story, but there was also the challenge for the director to innovate crime drama, which was fascinating and gripping,” Allen says.

“There was this very strict portrayal of only one character, but we also wanted to reveal layers of his character, plus the daughter’s secret past and the layers of the investigation. These are not the same interrogation scenes you might see in a traditional detective show, but a dad interrogating suspicious people about his daughter’s death,” adds Allen, who founded Copenhagen-based Miso Film with Peter Bose in 2004.

“You have Thomsen going up against Lie Kaas and then, in another episode, Ulrich versus Lars. That is the power of the show.”

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Fighting talk

Award-winning director Christoffer Boe swaps feature films for TV with a six-part examination of a soldier’s struggle to readjust after returning home from combat. He tells DQ how he teamed up with producer Miso Film for Danish drama Kriger (Warrior).

It’s the latest scripted drama to come from Danish production powerhouse Miso Film – but that might be where comparisons end between Kriger (Warrior) and anything else made in Denmark.

Christoffer Boe

Running to just six episodes, it focuses on a military veteran struggling to readjust to life after the experience of war. Dar Salim stars as CC, who returns home after his last mission resulted in the death of his best friend, Peter. At home in Copenhagen, he cannot shake his feelings of guilt, so offers to help Peter’s widow, police investigator Louise (Danica Curcic), tackle a notorious biker gang.

It’s not just the story that is set to push the boundaries of what is commonly recognised as Nordic noir, but the tone and visual style of the show, which is due to debut on Denmark’s TV2 this fall. That’s largely down to filmmaker Christoffer Boe, who is making his first move into television by directing the series. He also co-wrote the script with Simon Pasternak.

Boe says Warrior was always destined for television, a medium that, unlike film, offered him the opportunity to tell a story from multiple perspectives – in this case the police, the veteran and the biker gang – across six hours.

“You wouldn’t be able to do that in a feature film,” says the director, who won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his first feature, Reconstruction, in 2003. “It would be too short. In that sense, it needed the time and space of a TV series. And at the moment, everything really interesting in narrative filmmaking is in TV series. You have the ability to dig into all the grey areas.

“The greatest TV series are always where the hard choices are. It’s not about black and white but the grey area where nothing is easy. It takes time to create that environment where situations and choices become more difficult and take a bigger toll on you, and you don’t have that time in feature films. You have something different. That’s one of the things that really makes TV shows so interesting at the moment.”

Warrior stars Dar Salim as CC

Boe describes a post-war climate in Denmark where the fighting is over but conflict remains on the streets of the country’s cities. “There’s also a cultural war based on different perspectives around society, community and what shared values we have,” he reflects. “At the core of this series is an exciting, interesting thriller-based story that still deals with the depths of these issues.

“A guy returns home with the pain of being involved in war and the guilt of losing his best friend. He has big issues, as all great characters have, but then he goes into the criminal world, and it’s also very much thematically about what values do we really want to fight for? How long will we continue doing the right thing, and when does a good thing become a bad thing if you misuse your methods? There are a lot of questions about society and great thematic issues to deal with because of the character he is and the characters he involves himself with.”

Utilising the support of Miso Film co-founders Peter Bose and Jonas Allen, Boe says the switch to television has been a “learning curve,” requiring a completely different approach to writing and directing. He continues: “Even though it’s still about having great characters, transforming a big arc into six episodes is a very different endeavour so I really needed these guys to hold my head above the water. We had lots of talks and creative discussions about how to do this in the right way.”

With a back catalogue including series such as Frikjent (Acquitted), Den som Dræber (Those Who Kill) and Dicte, Miso Film is one of Scandinavia’s most prominent producers. Its reputation is enhanced further by the fact it is also behind the region’s first Netflix original series, The Rain, which is due to launch next year.

The show focuses on a soldier struggling to readjust to life after war and the death of a friend

“Coming from series like those, it was interesting to work with an A-list director and really see Christoffer’s ambition coming through in a miniseries with great talent attached,” says Miso’s Bose. “We have quite a bit above the budget we normally have – 25% more – because we want to make this stand out. Sometimes it can be difficult to get a great talent to commit to a series of four or five seasons, so a limited series like this is a happy marriage.”

More than a decade has passed since Wallander and Forbrydelsen (The Killing) burst onto television screens, giving rise to a fascination with Nordic noir that has spread around the world. But as those stories have diversified away from gloomy crime thrillers, Allen says the opportunity to produce a series like Warrior is now a possibility.

Bose adds: “Nordic noir is still the backbone of what we do but broadcasters are becoming braver. They’re seeing different genres do work and it doesn’t have to be a traditional crime drama. A show like Acquitted is not a pure crime show. It’s a drama about society with a crime underneath.”

Furthermore, its creators believe Warrior will look very different from other Danish TV shows, with the entire series filmed on location and making use of different lighting to create an array of visual styles.

Warrior will air on Danish network TV2 this fall

“This is completely different,” Allen says of the drama, which is distributed by FremantleMedia International. “From the very beginning, this was a location show and we wanted to make the budget to accommodate the needs of the shooting, to pick up small details and the atmosphere. We’re trying to create an environment for the shoot in order to accommodate the vision of the show. That’s the thing about doing six episodes, it’s possible here.”

Boe picks up: “It’s going to be very atmospheric and have a very strong visual presence. There’s going to be a keen awareness of our milieus and of the greatness of Copenhagen. I’ve always been obsessed with Copenhagen. I usually use very selective areas of the city but this time we want to show it as a big city, like Gotham City. So we’re going to do Gotham City Copenhagen-style.”

Unlike Batman, Gotham’s most famous citizen, who reappears every few years, the characters that populate Warrior are not set to return to screens after the show’s initial six-episode run comes to an end. It’s another reason why the show will stand out among other Danish series, which tend to conform to a three-season structure.

“If you look at the Nordic noir trend for the last 15 years, you’re now able to do something like Warrior, not only in terms of attracting A-list talent but also in terms of telling a new story,” Allen concludes. “There’s been a shift from traditional Nordic crime drama and this is really a balance of community and loyalty on a thematic level, but also a show with pace and fantastic drama sequences. This is a new shift in what’s going on in Scandinavia.”

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Miso tells war stories

Jonas Allen says Warrior will tackle issues new to Denmark
Jonas Allen says Warrior will tackle issues new to Denmark

Television schedules are no strangers to stories of war. From BBC1’s The Crimson Field, which was produced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War last year, to RTL’s Cold War spy thriller Deutschland 83, conflicts continue to provide scriptwriters with a host of compelling stories.

Fresh from producing historical epic 1864, which is set against the backdrop of one of Europe’s bloodiest ever battles, Denmark’s Miso Film is now turning its attention to a drama that will examine issues that are new to the country.

The prodco has partnered with writer/director Christoffer Boe for six-part series Warrior (fka Prospect), which is based on an idea from Boe and is being developed with Simon Pasternak.

It tells the story of a former soldier who struggles to find his way back into society after returning home from war. When he learns that a friend and fellow former soldier has committed suicide, he sets out to learn the truth behind his death.

Miso Film co-founder Jonas Allen says Warrior confronts a topic that is still very new for people in Denmark. He explains: “Christoffer is a very talented director so we wanted to work with him – but we really liked the story. It’s about a soldier coming back from war in Afghanistan. This is new in Denmark – having veterans coming back, having people in service and Denmark stepping into a war in present times.

“This story is about a soldier returning and trying to cope, but he can’t really find his place in society. I think that’s very interesting in the time we’re in right now.”

Warrior is set to go into production in spring 2016, and will air on TV2 in Denmark.

1864
1864: ‘It’s overwhelming that people really loved the show,’ says Allen

Meanwhile, 1864 was recently nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Nymph Awards, which took place earlier this month at the Monte Carlo TV Festival (though the prize was won by UK/US copro The Missing). The show’s stars Jens Setter-Lassen and Sarah-Sofie Boussnina were also nominated, for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.

The eight-part series tells the story of two brothers who sign up for the army when war breaks out between Denmark and Prussia, and follows the love triangle they become embroiled in during a brutal conflict.

Allen says: “1864 aired last fall on DR. We were very pleased – we had one of the greatest openings. I think it was about 1.8 million viewers or 67% audience share. Our average was 1.4 million viewers, which was great.

“You look forward to the premiere and the reaction, and then it came out on BBC Four. It’s overwhelming that people really loved the show. It’s a great launch for the international market, and it also just premiered on Arte in France.”

Miso Film is also preparing to begin shooting the third season of its TV2 crime drama Dicte, which is based on Elsebeth Egholm’s novels. Production will get underway in September.

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