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Series Mania: Christoffer Boe on ‘Warrior,’ Ideals, Experimenting with Style

The Danish director talks about his awaited drama series ‘Warrior,’ which competes at this week’s Series Mania

LILLE, France — Produced by Denmark’s Miso Film and commercial channel TV2, sold by FremantleMedia Intl., “Warrior” marks the first TV work in years from one if the leading lights of the post Dogme 95 Danish cinema, Christoffer Boe, who burst onto the scene with his 2003 feature debut  “Reconstruction.”

It shows. Following CC (Dar Salim). a Danish army war veteran who returns to Copenhagen and, at the request of police officer,  Louise, infiltrates a bikers’ gang to attempt to nail its boss, Copenhagen’s biggest crime lord, its beautifully toned title credit sequence unfolds to the sound of a drum beat. They picture modern industrial scenes. but are lit by unfocused burnished gold lights reminiscent of fire in a forge or on a battlefield at night as bombs fall. “Warrior” asks what can come of the ideals of a soldier – service to a community, loyalty, bravery – in fallen modern world. Such themes could make for a foreign-language art film. Instead, they play out in a six-part drama thriller which will be seen by maybe millions more viewers, while capturing the creative excitement many filmmakers feel confronting a longer narrative form.

“Warrior” is also backed by NRK, YLE, Netflix. Monovision, the Nordisk Film & TV Fond and the E.U. Media Program. Variety talked to Boe on the eve of Series Mania.

From the first two episodes at least, “Warrior” appears to be talking about the challenges presented by a modern world to ideals, here classic “warrior” ideals of loyalty, service, doing good. But maybe I’m completely wrong?

Christoffer Boe: You’re completely right! Basically it’s about the core issue of Individual vs Society – how do we as individuals stand up for our beliefs while at the same time fit into a community. These are ancient dilemmas – but as we are becoming more and more aware of our own individuality and society is seen more as a social construct than a static entity it becomes more and more complex. I think there’s a generel feeling of disorientation among people: What values do we actually share? How do we fight for them? Where do I belong? And this can very easily become a very dramatic engine for a story – how far are you willing to go to uphold the ideals and values that you believe are right? In other words how much bad shit are you willing to do to be one of us.

So, through a focus on a warrior’s ideals, the series is asking far bigger questions…..

Such as what binds us together. What are the commonly shared values that each of us are willing to die for? With police, or soldiers, the values are very simple, but so strong that the people within the community, whether a gang, or soldiers or police unit, are willing to die for them. The challenge is that society is very complex, so it’s difficult to figure out what these values are for ordinary citizens – so people who belong to a strong communities clear easily become outsiders exactly because they have such a strength in their conviction. Idealism is a blessing and a curse.

In the first two episodes you have some situations where a character has to compromise their values for a larger goal. CC, the hero, sells out Mads, who’s been a friend for him, in order to get closer to the head of the gang… 

The wonderful thing about TV series is that they get very quickly into the grey areas where everything becomes muddy and difficult. It’s not about black and white. The wonderful Nordic series we’ve been seeing these recent years are murky series where there is no easy step, every step in the right direction has a bad consequence. As Scandinavians we might not be very firm believers in protestantism anymore but we do carry a tremendous amount of guilt with us – about everything. So in “Warrior,” guilt is a very important part of the story – its THE big driving force of the main characters and why they do what they do.

I sense one main challenge for you as a co-screenwriter was to meld these big ideas with a thriller format….

So many great movies, great books are about homecoming soldiers and the problems they encounter. That was the last thing that we wanted to do. We wanted to do something different, with the lead character. We wanted the story of a soldier in a situation where his values are put to the test, questioning who he really is. CC comes home from war knowing that he was instrumental in the death of his best friend –  how to go about living after this? The best that can happen is for the widow to ask a favor of him – because he is willing to do anything for her. So infiltrating the gang suits him perfectly because of that – the guilt  – but it also turns out that the bikers value loyalty, violence, and action so in some ways its the perfect place for him. Its like giving a drug addict the keys to the drugstore. So we hope to engage on an intellectual level  – about society, community, idealism and guilt – and on a purely action-driven axis as well: how will CC become a biker.

CREDIT: Per Arnesen/Miso Film

Could you talk about your choices when it came to direction?

One step was to look other Scandinavian shows and make sure we didn’t look the same! Basically, we decided we had to shoot on real locations and in a very personal observational mode. Not just hand held but its own a quirky look: Every frame is just a little bit off so we have the atmosphere of the locations but we also have this off-beat way of looking at the characters, very low angle or high angle shots. We didn’t want to look at these characters in a straightforward way.

You always have a very interesting use of limited depth-of-field, especially at night, where background lights are out of focus putting all the focus on the character, which creates a slightly nightmarish scene. 

Basically we shot the entire series with a 1.3 aperture to have a very shallow focus. The idea was to be intensely intimate with our main characters. You get the sense that the world of the series is very focused on the main character. Hopefully, it’s a quite beautiful but gives a sense of  intimacy and obsession to our main characters.

You made “Warrior” for TV2. Does this form part of a larger scripted series drive on its part to face up to pubcaster DR, one of Scandinavia’s most prestigious fiction serious producers? 

TV2 seems to be trying to expand the perception of what TV2 fiction means. People had a very fixed idea of what TV2 fiction was but it’s now coming out with a ton of different new series. I’m doing this one about bikers and soldiers, Bille August is doing a period piece that airs at the end of the year and a lot of new stuff is coming. They’re being very aggressive, trying to expand their fiction portfolio. I’m crossing my fingers that it will all work out!

CREDIT: Miso Film

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