Are You Series? is a great opportunity to preview some of the best Belgian and international TV series. For the festival’s sixth edition, Bozar is billing Borgen’s creator Adam Price. In Brussels, he will present the second and final season of his penetrating drama Ride Upon the Storm.
Priests boring? Wait until you’ve seen the Kroghs in Ride Upon the Storm. The father (Lars Mikkelsen, who won an Emmy last week) has his eye on the diocese of Copenhagen, his eldest son just can’t seem to find what he is looking for, the youngest is a pastor, and for all three, damnation is closer than they would like.
“I’m driven by curiosity. This series is a quest to understand faith and religion, and to discuss it,” Adam Price, the creator of the series, explains his venture into religion. “Just as you saw in Borgen, that’s how we traditionally do it in Denmark: we debate over coffee instead of beating each other up. [Laughs] This has kept us relatively peaceful for 170 years.”
“There are already so many shows that debate terror, the fear of terror, and the clash between the Muslim faith and old Christian democracies. This show explores the building blocks of religion: personal faith, a soul believing in something, a person losing or finding faith.”
It is incredible that you were given carte blanche for such a theme.
Price: [Laughs] I have to be very grateful. DR, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, has a long tradition of believing in authors. DR is a public service channel. They have not been put in this world to make money. They do not show advertising. They are not completely slaves to the ratings. We have the freedom to do the show however we want to do it. Their trust encouraged me to become even braver.
Ride Upon the Storm is entertaining, but it is also very informative.
Price: The show has been an educational process for all of us. Extraordinary things happened. Lars Mikkelsen decided to be baptised for real because of the show. Lars came from an atheistic home, but he started thinking so deeply about religion and his personal faith that he was able to take that leap. I cannot say that I’ve become religious myself, but I have great respect for people who are religious and who are guided by this light that I don’t see myself. I’m completely at peace and at ease with religion as long as they keep it a personal matter and don’t impose it on other people.
According to Bozar, Borgen changed the way Nordic television stations operate, opening the door to a new wave of fiction that made Scandinavian showrunners the driving force behind European storytelling. But Borgen didn’t emerge from nothing, did it?
Price: Borgen belongs to a line of shows that developed the art of TV storytelling in the Nordic countries. The Killing paved the way for us. Together, we made Danish storytelling a household name in the UK, France, the Benelux, and afterwards in the US and the rest of the world. We’ve now sold Borgen to more than 80 countries.
The Killing was written by Søren Sveistrup. In the 1990s, we worked together on the first modern TV drama that DR produced: Taxa. My school of writing began there. I was never trained as a writer. I used to study law, but I left university to explore writing and I never turned back.
Ride Upon the Storm is a collaboration with France. Are you dependent on international success?
Price: TV series are getting more and more ambitious. Denmark is a small country and we need co-producers for the big budgets. Søren Sveistrup, Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen, a former producer of Lars von Trier, and I formed a company: SAM Productions. Meta went around Europe to find international collaborators for Ride Upon the Storm, and luckily this made the collaboration with Arte and StudioCanal possible.
In a globalized world we should work that way. I strive for a continuous European voice in the world of international TV. American companies like HBO, Amazon, or Netflix are all moving in on Europe. My next show will be for Netflix. They’re great to work with but I still think that Europe should bring their talents together and start a streaming service.
Are You Series?
The festival is a great opportunity to preview some of the best Belgian and international TV series. Three highlights:
State of happiness
Four young people from a Norwegian coastal town have wild ideas for the summer of 1969 but the discovery of the first petroleum layers in the North Sea turns everything upside down.
This visually impressive series about a statue of Mary that purportedly wept tears is the brainchild of Niccolò Ammaniti, one of the great Italian novelist of our age.
After two excellent films about doctors and medicine, Thomas Lilti has ventured to make a hospital series with an impressive cast. The Frenchman has promised to come and explain the project.