Seeing Fallen through
Swedish writer Camilla Ahlgren discusses reuniting with The Bridge star Sofia Helin for Sanningen (Fallen), in which a cold-case murder investigation has wide-reaching repercussions for the inhabitants of a small town.
Across four seasons, writer Camilla Ahlgren and star Sofia Helin partnered on Bron (The Bridge), a cross-country crime drama that became one of the most iconic dramas to emerge from Scandinavia during the Nordic noir boom.
The pair have now reunited with Bron producer Filmlance for a new series called Sanningen (Fallen), in which Helin plays Iris Broman, the new head of a cold-case team in Malmö. Due to a tragedy, she has left for the small southern town of Ystad, where she moves in with her half-sister Kattiss (Hedda Stiernstedt) by the sea.
But when a cold case becomes topical again, the fates of several people become intertwined as their lives are turned upside down by truths and consequences.
Produced for Nordic streamer C More and Sweden’s TV4, in partnership with Germany’s ZDF, the series is set to launch in 2024. Banijay Rights is distributing.
Here, Ahlgren tells DQ about creating the psychological drama, reuniting with Helin and why Fallen is more poetic than other Swedish crime series.
Introduce us to the story of Fallen.
Fallen is an emotionally charged drama created and produced here in Sweden by the team at Filmlance. We’re excited to have Sofia Helin on board and to be working together again after the epic success of Bron.
In Fallen, Sofia takes on the role of Iris Broman, a complex character who embarks on a journey from Stockholm to Malmö. When arriving in the smaller city, she assumes a new position as leader of the cold-case team, and her visit coincides with a chilling discovery – a body found in the woods outside Malmö. It is suspected the remains are those of a young boy who disappeared 18 years ago.
The challenges don’t end there. Iris is also grappling with a personal trauma that happened back in Stockholm: her husband was shot in an incident where she was the intended target, and the perpetrators got away. As Iris joins the investigation in Malmö, she must find a way to cope with her personal trauma. She is not allowed to be a part of the investigation in Stockholm, but she has an unrelenting need to purse the truth, and can’t stay out of it even though she is supposed to.
What is her relationship like with her half-sister Kattis?
Iris loves Kattis. However, their relationship is not without complexities, and they have underlying challenges. Iris thinks Kattis is spoiled, due to her growing up with a different father with better financial circumstances. They do not see each other very often, as Kattis lives in Paris with her family, her husband and two children. Her personality is in stark contrast to Iris; Kattis is known to be more outspoken and impulsive, and is comfortable with openly expressing her feelings. Meanwhile, Iris struggles to share her emotions.
What can you say about the impact of the cold case on the central characters – and those around them?
The cold case has left a profound mark on all the characters in Fallen. They are ordinary people, and each person has been touched by the cold case in one way or another. Some attempt to bury the past by trying to forget and move on, while others are still traumatised. But everyone involved is now forced to confront old secrets and lies. Their lives will change, and nothing will be as it once was.
What are the origins of the project?
The project began back in 2017 when I read an article in the local newspaper about the cold-case team in Malmö. This team actively posted cold cases on their website, hoping to elicit tips and information from the public. Subsequently, several articles appeared in the daily newspaper. As I followed their efforts, I began to ask myself: how does it feel for the people who are involved? The families, the friends and even the perpetrators themselves. I wondered how these events shaped their lives, and how they continue to affect them, and I was especially curious to delve into what happens when the truth is finally revealed.
The head of the cold-case team in Malmö is Bo Lundkvist, a police officer who previously helped us fact-checking during the writing of Bron. Inspired by this connection, I contacted him and we embarked on a journey of research and exploration.
How did you work with co-writers Martin Asphaug and Alex Haridi to write the scripts?
We are a tight team. Martin, who also happens to be my husband, and I have worked with Alex on many projects prior to Fallen. It’s a strong partnership, not only because we know each other very well and we like to work together, but also because we all complement each other’s strengths.
It feels very important to enjoy the process of creating and writing, as at times it is undeniably hard work. Together we crafted and developed the storyline together, often with Alex visiting our house in Skåne for in-depth discussions. We dedicated ourselves to breaking down every episode, and Alex took the lead in writing two of the episodes, while also providing valuable insights into our scripts.
How would you describe the atmosphere and tone of the series, and how did you achieve that on the page?
Our goal was to create a psychological crime series, delving into the intricacies of different characters connected to the case and gradually getting to know their complexities, without revealing who is guilty before the very end. In contrast to the well-known dark and brooding atmosphere of Nordic noir, Fallen is deliberately more nuanced.
We wanted to capture the stark contrast between the countryside and the city. It’s a realistic tone but, at the same time, also poetic, with the drama unfolding within an expressive landscape. This is vastly different than if it was a bustling cityscape, and having a visual contrast was a strong foundation for storytelling. Humour is also important, even if it’s a crime series. Infusing elements of humour is a great way to balance the tension and provide a well-rounded viewing experience.
What was it like reuniting with Sofia Helin? Why was she the perfect actor to play Iris?
I’m very happy that Sofia liked the character and wanted to play the role. Sofia’s portrayal of Iris is perfect; she is an exceptional actress and it’s great to work with her again. Sofia has a remarkable ability to get into her character and deepen the emotions. We were both very aware that Iris is a distinct, individual character, and definitely not the next Saga Norén, her iconic character in Bron.
How did you both work together behind the scenes to develop the series and create the character?
We talked a lot about her character and the dynamics of the sisterly relationship between Iris and Kattis. By the time Sofia joined the project, we had already been developing the series for some time. Sofia brought numerous insightful thoughts and creative ideas about her character, which proved invaluable. Writing became a more fluid process when we had a clear understanding of how Sofia would bring the role to life.
How did you work with director Linnéa Roxeheim to create a unique visual style for the series?
We had a good collaboration while developing the scripts, and we were very impressed with the director’s vision Linnea brought to the series. I was particularly drawn to her poetic tone, the emphasis on the lighting, the unique cast and the exceptional surroundings she envisioned.
Filming took place in Malmö and Ystad. How did these locations lend themselves to the story?
Selecting these locations was influenced by Martin and myself, as we live in the countryside outside Ystad in a small village, and we set the story here. We moved here from Stockholm almost 20 years ago. The surroundings have always been a source of inspiration, and for a long time we have wanted to create a series set in this area. The natural landscape is poetic and calm in contrast to the busy city of Malmö. This duality forms a significant part of the story as Iris travels back and forth from Malmö to Ystad. She takes up residence in her sister’s summer cottage outside Ystad, where her solitude and loneliness are reflected in the natural surroundings.
How involved were you across filming?
Throughout filming, I kept a close connection to the production. This included viewing all the dailies, as well as regular contact with the producers and stepping in for rewrites whenever necessary. I also had the opportunity to visit the set a few times, which is always a good experience as it allows me to meet the actors, the director, and the entire team.
However, I’m not a showrunner who is present on set every day, and I would say my involvement is more like a head writer. Once filming commences, my focus shifts to writing new projects. I often juggle two or three ongoing projects, as you never know which one is going to get a green light. And occasionally you sometimes find yourself in the fortunate position of having a green light on two shows at the same time.
Why do you think the series stands out among other Swedish crime shows?
The tone is of Fallen is much lighter and more poetic. The story doesn’t rely heavily on violence or graphic scenes of women being murdered. Instead, it’s more like an emotional crime drama. First and foremost, the primary focus is the suspense and tension among the characters, although there are quite a few plot twists and turns. And the series takes part in the south of Sweden.
We have been developing Fallen for several years and I’m so happy that Filmlance, TV4 and ZDF believed in our idea. And we had a fantastic team turning this series into something different.
How do you look back at The Bridge and its impact, not only in Sweden and Denmark but around the world?
Reflecting on Bron and its global influence, it’s amazing. It was the kind of experience that only happens once in your lifetime – and to think, at the time, streaming services did not even exist. The team and I could not even imagine in our wildest dreams the worldwide success it would achieve. Bron will always mean a lot because it opened up the global television industry to me. In fact, it directly led me to write the first-ever Swedish original series for Netflix, Quicksand.
What are you working on next?
Currently we are developing a storyline for a second season of Fallen. We have two scripts in the works while we are waiting to see how the series will be received when it launches next year. I am developing a series for Swedish broadcaster SVT, and another title for a streaming service that’s been greenlit and will start filming next spring. Finally, I have major aspirations to write a feature film.