Lead writer Cilla Jackert’s “Thin Blue Line,” a fresh take on a police procedural, is Sweden’s contender for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize at 2021’s Göteborg Film Festival. Produced during a tumultuous time for police all around the world, the show quickly establishes itself as an intimate portrayal of the lives – both personal and professional – of its central characters who happen to be part of Malmö’s police. That adds drama forefronting the often overlooked humanity in an often plot driven genre.
The show revolves around the criss-crossing stories of Sara (Amanda Jansson, “Midnight Sun”), Magnus (Oscar Töringe, “Top Dog”), Leah (Gizem Erdogan, “Kalifat”) and Jesse (Per Lasson, “The Bridge”) as each of them struggle to keep their personal lives in check – or afloat – while facing the daily hardships and bureaucratic constriction of their profession.
Produced by Anagram Sweden, the 10-part show is a shining example of the caliber of scripted drama commissioned by public broadcast network SVT, as other Nordic state broadcasters DR, YLE, NRK and RÚV which, time and again tackle head on some the emerging dilemmas of contemporary Europe, posing questions that never have easy answers.
As the police move through an multicultural Malmö, superbly executed hand-held camera plunges the viewer into a multilayered society. Director Sanna Lenken (“My Skinny Sister”) achieves a gritty realism at times bordering documentary without ever losing a sense of lyricism.
Variety talked with head writer Cilla Jackert (“Dream”) on the run-up to this year’s Göteborg Film Festival:
Your show comes right at a time where the police has come under heavy criticism all around the world, with critics pointing to systematic issues eroding the population’s trust. Could you comment?
When I started writing the show in 2014, I saw that the police’s problem was taking the job home. Seeing horrible things at work, – someone commits suicide or a kid dies – and you take that home with you. But I’ve learned that it’s more like the other way around. Someone in your family has cancer or you had a big conflict with your partner or normal everyday life problems and you are not supposed to take that to work: You have to be neutral in all situations. When I figured that out, then you have something to tell.
The series is less concerned with police procedural, more with the drama of its characters, pointing out the humanity behind the uniforms. What were your guidelines when developing the show?
The four main characters are all handling in different ways my main question: How do you remain a whole human being seeing so much hardship, so many horrid things? They ‘re all coping in different ways: That’s the heart of the show. How can I be a hopeful person in this world we live in, with the problems we have. They’re answering that question in four different ways. It’s a drama series, and if you tell all their personal lives, then you know what they’re thinking when they’re in their work situations. You know what they’re not acting on.
Your show depicts a profoundly multi-cultural Malmö and examines how police face an inevitable transformation of both Sweden and the E.U.. As cultures moves forward and evolve, there are no easy answers. What’s your take on this?
Sweden’s always have been in transformation. It’s not the first time that Sweden or Europe have people from all over arriving. I don’t have any answers but we do have this discussion right now. I wanted to give a bigger picture of what Sweden actually looks like today. Not only Malmö, all across Sweden there are nurses and doctors that weren’t born on Swedish soil. That’s Sweden today. There’s too much focus on the problems with young immigrant men integrating into society. We don’t show so much how immigration has functioned across the board in Sweden, especially at hospitals. We wouldn’t function without immigrant. I just wanted to shine a light on how it looks today and let people decide what they think. I’d like people to reflecting on it, thinking for themselves.
The show shines when creating cinematographic moments that result from gazes and intimacy rather than action-driven spectacle. What was your approach when constructing these scenes?
When developing the show, our two main words were “close” and “authentic.” I worked a lot with those two words in the script and Sanna used them a lot while directing. It had to be close to the police officers at all times. You need to know what they’re feeling while they’re not acting on their feelings. As a head writer, you need to have the right person for the project and you rely on them to do the best for the project.