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Showrunner Hakan Lindhe on Politics, Image in Viaplay’s ‘The Inner Circle’

‘The Inner Circle’ competes for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for outstanding writing, announced at Sweden’s Göteborg Film Festival, Jan. 30.

David Ehrling, Sweden’s Minister for Enterprise, who is tipped to be its next Prime Minister, spends a lot of the time in Sweden’s “The Inner Circle” not preparing his speeches, or in impassioned discussion of key political issues, but staring into the mirror, rain checking on his strong-jawed image.

He spends much of his enterprise, not developing a program to take Sweden into the future, but attempting to sidestep sexual and financial scandals fueled by an ever-present media. Welcome to the world of modern Swedish politics, indeed much politics at large.

Sold by DRG, and produced by Fundament Film for the Nordic Entertainment Group-owned Viaplay, a Scandinavian VOD platform powerhouse of original series production, “The Inner Circle” begins with Ehrling (Niklas Engdahl) being advised by Sweden’s prime minister that he is a candidate to succeed her. As Almedalen Week, Sweden’s annual early July political forum, takes place in the sun-kissed quaint city of Vilby, Erhling is soon plunged in seemingly impossible to survive scandal, accused of frequenting prostitutes, financial legerdemain to obtain ownership of a Swedish port, an affair with his press attache (Nanna Blondell). He is even suspected of murder.

But Ehrling, one suspects, will fight back. Or maybe none of the above really matters when it comes to choosing a country’s next P.M.

Billed as a exposé of the scheming, dirty tricks and power plays of modern politics, “The Inner Circle” is created by Håkan Lindhé, who directed four episodes of the Fremantle-sold “Modus.”

Almedalen Week has been criticized as an event where, increasingly, image, not discussion of complex issues, is all. “The Inner Circle” challenges the viewer to buy into this from the get-go and then question the mindset.The most important thing about the series, in other words, is not what David Ehrling has done, or his political program, but whether he gets away with it. Variety talked to Lindhé in the build up to the Göteborg Film Festival where “The Inner Circle” competes for the Nordisk Film & TV Prize.

“The Inner Circle” suggest that in politics, image is all. Could you comment?

Isn’t image what politics is about these days? Image, ego, vanity, hunger for power, much more than ideology and the really important political issues of today? Many politicians, all over the world, seems to be more interested in themselves, money and power, than doing something good for the world. In this season (we hope to do a few more)  we focus on David Ehrling’s struggle to becoming the next Prime Minister of Sweden. In the next I’d like to dig deeper into how it feels to run a country – while your own life is falling apart.

CREDIT: Håkan Lindhé

 

 

Ehrling is accused of frequenting prostitutes and a potential conflict of interests, having masterminded the purchase of a Swedish port facility by now-sanctioned Russian business interests. But he can deliver an inspiring off-the-cuff speech, and he looks great on camera. The questions which “The Inner Circle” raises is whether these qualities make him totally appropriate or inappropriate to become Sweden’s next prime Minister. Again, could you comment?

I think you could be a great Prime Minister, even if you have done a few things in the past that you’re very not proud of. Of course, nothing criminal, or in other ways questionable. But we’ve all made mistakes. The important thing is that we’ve learned from it. In Davids Ehrlings case, there is a lot of smoke… But – without spoiling anything – everything is explained in the end.

The first half of “The Inner Circle” is tensed by political skullduggery and an all-intrusive press which makes privacy impossible. What we have yet to see is much spin or collusion between the forces of government of order and big industry. Can we expect these to come to the fore as Erhling attempts to dig himself out of a huge hole? 

Well, as I said, I don’t want to spoil anything. But I can promise you one thing – it’s worth seeing the whole series to the end. I think you’ll be surprised.

”The Inner Circle” also registers the new paradigms of politics in an Internet age. Politicians careers are decided by social media and media, not elections, and can be over in one day. Per Schlingmann novel was published in 2017. Was there anything you chose to emphasize even more while making the series….

The novel had the arena, a vague political plot and the main characters. And that was great. But it wasn’t enough to make an 8 episode series.  So my job was to bring some drama to the table: Interesting backstories, problematic relationships, family secrets etc. I changed the whole premise, created new characters and wrote a totally new ending. We decided early on that Schlingman’s novel is one universe, “The Inner Circle” is another.

Most episodes end on a cliff-hanger. Will Viaplay release all the episodes of “The Inner Circle” at the same time?

No, I think they will release two episodes per week.

CREDIT: Håkan Lindhé

Setting is crucial in “The Inner Circle.” Much takes place at the Almedalen. Did you shoot there as well?  Yes, we started in Almedalen, which was both crazy and inspiring. We knew that some of the scenes, we just had to get there. They would be too expensive to stage. We worked day and night for five days, with two teams. But we got what we needed. After that, the rest of the shoot was a ”walk in the park”.

Political exposes are common in U.K. fiction, rarer on the continent, though “Borgen” of course manages this for Denmark. Are they still relatively rare in ? Does it need more?

We had an interesting trilogy made by SVT a few years ago; “Kronprinsessan,” “Kungamordet” and “Drottningoffret.” But not much else. I hope there is a new interest in that genre now. And I hope “The Inner Circle” can fill that hole.

”Modus” brought a religious twist to Nordic Noir. “The Inner Circle” at least has a murder in its early stretches. Would you see it as part of a growing diversification in Nordic Noir, and where does Nordic Noir stand today?

I think many of us are getting a bit bored of two gloomy cops trying to solve a murder. At least, I am. I hope and think we’ll see a development in style, Nordic Noir 2.0, where we create compelling and interesting stories about something else than dead bodies.

CREDIT: Håkan Lindhé

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