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Netflix Bows ‘The Rain’ at Series Mania

Produced by Denmark’s Miso Film, ‘The Rain’ weighs in as a chic and notably ethical post-Apocalypse survival thrille

LILLE, France — Netflix bowed its first Danish original, “The Rain,” one of the most awaited of Series Mania’s competition contenders, on Saturday evening, at the French drama series festival.

Produced by Denmark’s Miso Film, which also has the buzzed up “Warrior” in competition, and co-created by Jannick Tal Mosholt, whose writing credits include four episodes of “Borgen” Season 3, “The Rain” drew a big and appreciative crowd of 1,200-plus mainly 20 or 30-something Lille spectators who packed out the lower half of Lille’s 2,000-seat Nouveau Siecle.

Here are four immediate reactions to the latest of Netflix international originals, released worldwide on May 4.

1.Velocity

“The Rain” kicks in with scenes from what looks like a high-school romance, as Simone (Alba August) tries to organize her class mates for an exam project, and is asked out on a date by a boy in the group, during the exam. Then her father drags her out of the school, and it’s a apocalypse horror movie as her family tries to escape from looming lethal rain clouds: Anyone touched by a rain-drop falls victim to a virus, dies, frothing at the mouth, soon after.

But then it’s a bunker-set family drama, as the kids’ father, a scientist, settles them into a dug-out designed for catastrophes: then it cuts to six years later with Rasmus now not a namby-pamby kid but hunky young man. That’s not only all in Ep. 1 but just its first 15 minutes. International shows these days – think Netflix’s “La Casa de Papel,” HBO’s “Succession,” Canal Plus’ “Versailles” Season 3 – unfold  as if there’s no tomorrow.

2.An Ethical Thriller

Six years after the apocalypse, Simone and Rasmus’ bunker air vents suddenly shut down; Rasmus drags a near unconscious Simone up to the surface. They collapse on the grass outside the bunker (a scene captured in the latest Netflix trailer) in lovely woodland, are soon surrounded by a raggedy group of survivor-scavengers looking for food. Having taken what’s left of bunker rations, the group makes ready to move on, leaving the siblings in a locked room, to die from starvation.

“You know the rules,” ex-soldier Martin (Mikkel Følsgaard), their leader, tells one of the group’s two girls, who protests at this.

Actually, they don’t. With Scandinavia’s adult population wiped out, the survivors, all young adults, many not come of age, have to make up the rules as they go along.

“For us, it was interesting to have young characters at a point of their lives where they are about to find out who they are and will do so in a world where civilization has gone,” Mosholt said on state Saturday night at Series Mania,where he presented the how with co-creators Christian Potalivo and Esben Toft Jacobsen.

Martin’s rules are to shoot strangers if there’s any chance they’re infected. Don’t take chances.  But that’s shaped by an incident some time back when, standing sentry duty for his unit, he doesn’t shoot an woman with a baby. She infects and kills the whole of his unit.

At “The Rain’s” core is the question of what basic values the group should live by to not only survive but give their life a sense of quality which makes it worth living, Mosholt said. Since that can be affected as much by one-off incident as conviction, or the power dynamics of the group, “The Rain” weighs in as a kind of morality thriller where new morals, maybe maleable, can spell instant death for one of the group’s members.

3. Unsettling Aesthetics

Just one rain drop can kill. So the drops are shot from up-high plunging towards the surface like bombs. But, whatever their horror beats, the rain drops are also lensed with the crisp lush lensing of a commercial. So the negative looks positive. Equally, in the early stretches of “The Rain,” the positive becomes negative: Don’t fall in love with me because you won’t be so affected when I die, one of the group’s two young girls tells Rasmus. That confusion merely stresses the value vacuum in which the group now moves.

4. It’s Alba August’s Show

With Følsgaard (“A Royal Affair,” “Land of Mine”) playing opposite Alba August, a 2018 Berlinale Shooting Star, “The Rain” has two of Denmark’s finest young actors. But here it’s August’s show. Scandinavian royalty in movie terms – the daughter of double Danish Cannes Palme d’Or winner Bille August (“Pelle the Conqueror,” “The Best Intentions”) and Swedish actress-director Pernilla August (“Fanny and Alexander,” the “Star Wars” saga) – as Simone, August has to protect Rasmus, not just because he’s her younger brother but some injections given to him by their father might spell a cure for humanity. Her’s is a fantastically wide-ranging role even in just the first two episodes, where she veers from a teen flushed by exams and first love to panicked, then composed, then in the bunker near matronly. Reviews are not yet in on “The Rain.” But for August, it may mark an early-career milestone.

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