Scandi Noir In The Midnight Sun

In Features by Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Midnight Sun is the latest blockbuster Scandi-noir crime-thriller from writers Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein (The Bridge). While undoubtedly one of the year’s most anticipated and talked about shows, Midnight Sun has also done the business on the awards circuit, winning the audience award for Best Series at the SeriesMania Festival in Paris.

Midnight Sun follows the story of Kahina Zadi (Leila Bekhti – The Prophet, All That Glitters), a French police officer who travels to a small mining community in remote northern Sweden, to investigate a brutal murder of a French citizen. With the help of Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten – Bruno, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), a Swedish investigator, and a member of the Sami – an ancient Scandinavian indigenous tribe – they soon realise that this first killing is just the tip of the iceberg.

As they dig deeper, the duo discover that behind the killings is a ten-year-old conspiracy which threatens to tear the whole town apart. As they move ever closer to the escalating horror, they must also navigate their own painful and complex pasts.

Midnight Sun is a genre-breaking show, which delivers as both a satisfying crime drama and a tale of the human experience – of love, longing, hate, fear, and the ties that bind us. Kahina and Anders are both outcasts struggling to deal with the baggage of other lives, other experiences. Both Zadi and Harnesk have to learn to accept their true identity, one as a mother, the other as a gay Sami cop.

Mixing a thriller narrative, stunning landscapes, troubled characters, and real-life issues, this is a Scandi Noir with heart, soul and social conscience.

Paula Hammond’s FilmJuice spoke to Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein about the show that has had everyone talking…

You both write as well as direct. How hard is it to separate yourself from the process? To see your work directed by someone else and maybe being changed…?
It’s horrible to see another director do your script when he or she misses intentions or subtleties. But then everything that a person adds that makes the script better, you soon consider your own…

The Bridge was a phenomenal hit and really brought Scandinavian Noir into the wider public consciousness. What is it about Sweden that lends itself to these gritty dramas? The idea that crime never should be just that. The best crime stories are in fact just disguised dramas. We use the crime genre as a Trojan horse to get into the living room of people to tell them stories they otherwise would never see. The Bridge Season 1 was all about the life lies and the hypocrisy we create around ourselves to be able to move on. The killer holds a mirror to the audience and tells them the truth. Our truth. In a way, the killer is our mouth piece. This is the same technique as we used later on in Midnight Sun, but here the premise centres around origin.

With Midnight Sun, you could have produced a straight crime drama but you choose to mix in racism, homophobia, environmental issues, global politics…
Real crime stories bore us. We are never interested in a story where there’s a cop that chases a murderer. It needs to be about more than that. It’s not that we are against thrills, mystery, and chases. It’s just that without a deeper core, without a more thought out premise, it all falls flat. Actually it’s simple: the story becomes more engaging if you interact on more levels than one with the audience.

The two leads are perfect. Did you have them in mind when you wrote Midnight Sun?
Yes, both of them. We were very lucky to get them both.

And did they know ‘who done it’ from the start?
Oh yeah.

The Midnight Sun itself is such a strange phenomenon. Did it cause you any problems when filming?
It’s wonderful to shoot in because the light is so beautiful. Your sunset light holds for five hours instead of 30 minutes. The problem is the lack of sleep that comes with it. You don’t sleep enough and you don’t dream as you should. Some kind of strange alienation goes on when you work hard above the Polar Circle. You become detached from the real world. It sounds weird, but it’s almost mystical.

Midnight Sun is also a huge advertisement for wild Sweden. Do you love these sorts of natural spaces yourself?
Måns: I love to go hiking both in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries like Iceland.

Björn: I love the fact that the film process takes you to places that you would never visit. And you get to know the people there and their culture. Same with nature. Kiruna was another place that I never had been to before, but from now on it is forever a small piece of me.

Were you surprised by Midnight Sun’s success?
The truth is you never know. You never know. Therefore, when a story you told proves out to be successful you are grateful and proud.

There are calls for a sequel. Will there be one?
This story is told. It is over. It was one of the things that we were very clear about with all the actors and the broadcasters. We want to tell a story with an end. We want to transform our characters and not just have them ready for an other season.  Then we will tell new stories.

MIDNIGHT SUN is released on 5th June, DVD & Blu-ray.