A hard rain’s a-gonna fall
“Here in Scandinavia, we think our society is so well-structured and that we look out for each other. We thought it would be fascinating to see how we would react if everything is taken away from us, when we no longer have anything,” says Jannik Tai Mosholt, co-creator of The Rain. Another co-creator, Christian Potalivo adds, “What happens with the world when it’s no longer there? Scandinavia is famous for its welfare system. How would we react if this disappeared?”
The first original Danish Netflix -series. Premieres on 4 May.
Created by: Jannik Tai Mosholt, Christian Potalivo, Esben Toft -Jacobsen.
Directed by: Kenneth Kainz, -Natasha Arty.
Cast list: Alba August, Mikkel Boe Foelsgaard, Lucas Lynggaard Toennesen, Iben Hjejle, Johannes Kunke, and others.
Alba August, who plays the lead role, says, “It’s frightening to realize that this can happen in reality. Having said that, it’s not something you go around being afraid of.”
Between them, Mosholt, Potalivo and Esben Toft -Jacobsen have created this eight-part drama series, the first Netflix original produced in Denmark.
“We’ve had the idea for this series for a while,” Mos-holt says. “We had a meeting with Netflix, as we knew they wanted to start doing projects in Scandinavia and when we pitched The Rain they said that they really wanted to do it.”
Post-apocalyptic stories are popular these days. Mosholt mentions books such as The Lord of the Flies and The Road as well as the TV series The Walking Dead as inspiration for this particular project.
“Post-apocalyptic angst tends to emerge during periods of fear and uncertainty. Where is the world heading? We begin to speculate about the direction we are going in, we wonder if we can survive and we run through different scenarios in our head,” Mosholt says.
As viewers, we’re thrown head-on into catastrophe right from the first episode of The Rain. There’s something deadly in the rain falling over Denmark, with people caught in it dying in terrible agony. Teenagers Simone and her brother Rasmus flee from Copen-hagen by car with their parents. Their father knows where there’s a bunker with food and other necessities, but events lead to the children being left there, all alone.
Six years later, after never once stepping outside the bunker, they’re discovered by a gang of peripatetic young men and women. Simone knows other bunkers exist and she and her brother reluctantly join forces with the group on a journey through devastated landscapes and empty cities for encounters with survivors who have lost all their humanity and are ready to murder for something to eat. After reaching a devastated Copenhagen, the group heads to Sweden.
“We hadn’t really thought it through, that six years had passed when they first emerge from the bunker, and that everything would obviously look very different to when they first went in,” Mosholt says.
“Resolving this proved to be a pretty tough task, making everything look like it had changed over the course of six years. A great deal was shot on location, and it was a massive task for our production designer M. Wan Sputnick,” he adds.
Consequently, a great deal of time and effort was spent on research, according to Potalivo, with the passage of time posing particularly tricky questions.
“We spoke with doomsday researchers for instance, on how an apocalyptic event would affect a community. We were surprised how quickly things change, how soon nature takes over. There are numerous documentaries about this, there’s one on BBC, another on Netflix, about how everything falls apart. It only takes a couple of months. In The Rain, six years have passed.”
Scenes set in a deserted Copenhagen are highly impressive – both the Tivoli Gardens amusement park and the main square Rådhuspladsen are depicted with crashed cars and buses and collapsed buildings. -Mosholt says, “for these scenes, we mixed the material we were able to shoot on location with special effects. Throughout the entire series, we looked for locations that would work well for the story we wanted to tell, and we were welcomed in most of the places we visited.”
Alba August, who has lived in Copenhagen for the last four years, says, “It was absolutely crazy. We were shooting in Rådhuspladsen with tourists standing there watching us. It was an incredibly special feeling to shoot right in the middle of the city like this. We were surrounded by so much noise and had to act at the same time. Plus, there were places I go to every day, in what are then private locations. It felt a bit weird.”
The team filmed in places such as an overturned bus against a green screen backcloth, with background scenes added digitally later on.
“We did as much as possible in genuine surroundings. In episode three, we’re in a Burger King restaurant. It was a real one in the center of Copenhagen.”
How did the relationship with Netflix go?
“We’ve maintained a continuous dialog and worked closely with each other. They’ve been good in terms of making us stick to the original storyline and overall it has been a good partnership as we have had the same aims. This is a big budget apocalyptic teenage series, something that’s never been done in Denmark before. Our series tend to be more social dramas,” says Mosholt, who has previously worked on a string of successful local series such as Borgen and Follow the Money.
“Scandinavian TV has been good for several years, with dramas and Nordic Noir,” Potalivo adds. “What’s been so good in this particular case, is that we have different experiences which have made for a good symbiosis. Netflix has been to Denmark for a visit, but most things have been resolved via Skype. There’s a big distance between Denmark and the US.”
The target audience for The Rain may be young adults, but the theme means that it naturally includes many scenes containing brutal violence. Mosholt says that here too, they were given free rein.
“There were no restrictions as such, but we always work within our own self-imposed limits. Is this particular scene of violence or sex justified? That’s the deciding criterion.”
When the entire series of The Rain is released at once, it will immediately be available to view worldwide.
“It will be exciting and terrifying,” Mosholt says. “You can’t just release it on the quiet. The more people that see it, the more nervous you get.”
The series was given an advance screening at a Netflix event in Rome in mid-April.
“It was a crazy experience. When you’ve been working with something for such a long time, you want your baby to be well-received,” Potalivo says.
Was there any pressure on the creative team to give the series an international character as it is being streamed on Netflix and will be viewed all around the world?
“No,” Mosholt says. “No matter whether a story is set in Denmark or in India, everyone can still recognize ingredients such as love, hate and jealousy.”
“It’s dangerous to think about where something you do should fit in,” Potalivo says. “We have made the series we wanted to make. What is it that makes us humans? How would we react if this were taken away from us? No matter where in the world you live, that’s something you can relate to.”
Alba August is set for her big international breakthrough this year, not least thanks to her acclaimed portrayal of the young Astrid Lindgren in the movie Becoming Astrid, which had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February. The cast includes a couple of other well-known names (Iben Hjejle, Mikkel Boe Foelsgaard), but the majority are completely unknown, at least to anyone living outside Denmark.
“Netflix was totally open to us wanting to work with unknown young actors, we didn’t want to try to sign big names,” says Mosholt, who, along with Potalivo is coy about whether there are plans for a new series.
“You always want to do more, we have some new ideas, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Potalivo says.
And Mosholt, who does most of the actual writing for the pair, adds, “I have a definite feeling that there are more stories to tell in this universe. There are probably enough ideas for several seasons.”
Published: May 1, 2018