A daring character-driven crime drama about motherhood, “Snow Angels” is one of the highlights of this year’s Berlinale Series selection. Set in wintertime Stockholm, the gripping story follows three women — a mother, a policewoman and a child nurse — whose fates become intertwined following the disappearance of a 5-week-old infant.
The series is headlined by Josefin Asplund (“Vikings”), Eva Melander (“Border”), Maria Rossing (“Splitting Up Together”) and Ardalan Esmaili (“The Charmer”). Produced by Sweden’s Yellow Bird and Denmark’s Happy Ending Film, the six-part show is being represented in international markets by REinvent which unveiled a sale to Germany’s ARD Degeto at the start of market.
Variety talked to the strong female duo behind the gripping drama, the creator and writer Mette Heeno (“Splitting Up Together”), and the director Anna Zackrisson (“White Wall,” “The Restaurant”).
What’s the genesis of “Snow Angels”?
Mette Heeno: I wanted to explore the theme of motherhood and different stage of becoming a mother; the fear and happiness and all the emotions that come to you when you have a baby and start a family. I thought it was a strong starting point. Then expanding on that I wondered what it feels like to lose the child and if turns out that it’s your fault if the child is missing. For some women, becoming a mother can mean losing your sense of self and for others, it’s a life goal that can never be achieved. Once I had this narrative threat, I weaved all the other characters into the story. All of them are connected to the theme of motherhood in a different way.
The structure of the narration is not chronological. Why did you want to tell the story this way?
Heeno: The story goes back in time so it starts with Jenni being pregnant and you see everything that surrounds her before the child is born and understand all the nuances of this theme and story.
Zackrisson: The further you go back in time, the more you get to know the characters and the details of the plot reveal themselves.
Anna, what compelled you to come on board as a director?
Anna Zackrisson: I was drawn to the fact that it’s not another crime or detective story. When I read the script I found it both complex and strange. The characters all seem different from you and at the same time they’re human. The danger that these characters come across lies within themselves rather than outside, and we’re getting to know their fears and dreams.
Heeno: Yes, it’s not so much of a whodunnit-type show. It’s more about why these things happen than who did it. It’s both a relationship drama and thriller. We have a lot of empathy for the characters, we don’t judge them. They have a lot of flaws and they ended up in bad relationships, but they are trying to be good people.
What does the series say about Swedish society today?
Heeno: I think the series explores what it means to be a women today. Through the gaze of the policewoman, we see how Swedish society functions and judges women about the way they behave as mothers. As a mother in Sweden, you’re supposed to do things a certain way, and if you don’t you’re put in a certain box and it generates a lot of guilt and fear within women. The character of Jenni is seen as a sort of ‘white trash.’
Zackrisson: Sweden is advanced in many regards but it’s still a patriarchal society and it will take a few hundred years to break down that patriarchal social structure. It’s still taboo for a woman to say that she doesn’t want a child.
How did you manage to shoot the series during the pandemic?
Mette Heeno: We started in February when COVID-19 was only a vague rumour but we never had a lockdown in Sweden so we kept working. But shooting during this pandemic gave a special atmosphere on set. Every day we didn’t know if would have to shut down, or if someone was going to get ill. In the end we managed to get it through.
Anna Zackrisson: Still we had to change locations and reschedule things, for instance when places we were supposed to shoot in were shut down or when people had small colds. We also had scenes with small babies which we had to reschedule to the fall because we didn’t want to bring them on set last winter. It took enormous flexibility to make it work.
What are you working on next?
Mette Heeno: I’m going to start shooting a TV series for DR in August. It’s set in 1960’s in Denmark and it’s about the invention of the electric curler. It was a revolution for women because it was very cheap, saved them hours and they didn’t need to be rich to use it. It also got women to leave farms and start working at factories! I’m very excited about this show.