A big forest setting in the outskirts of Oslo, Norway, sets the breathtaking scene for creator/director/co-writer Simen Alsvik’s gripping new crime series, Fenris, which debuted on Viaplay on Aug. 17. If you loved the solve-the-puzzle intensity found in shows like Mare of Easttown and the exceptional Netflix series Lilyhammer, in which Alsvik was lead director, then Fenris should be on your must-watch list.
The plot and its actors pack a punch in this engaging series. Emma (Ida Elise Broch) is passionate about her work as a biologist for the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate. When she discovers her father, Marius Storhammar (Magnus Krepper), has stopped his duties as a wolf researcher, she takes her son Leo to Østbygda to investigate. Something is awry with her father, but there’s also another matter that Emma can’t shake. A young boy goes missing without a trace in the village. Locals suspect wolves were involved, as the boy was fascinated by the animals. But anybody, including Emma’s father, could be a suspect.
Simen Alsvik opened up with MovieWeb about Fenris, working with “wolves,” and shared some of the series’ deeper themes. Read on.
A Fairytale Setting That Gets Grim
Simen Alsvik’s vision for this series is impressive. He wanted to create a distinctly original show that spoke to the natural environment while also illuminating the fact that there are about 100 wolves left in the area due to environmental issues. Mix all that into a thrilling crime journey, and you have a captivating new series to dive into.
“I tried to do a different kind of crime series,” Alsvik admitted. “The preservation of wild animals is something that is really near and dear to me. My father worked with natural science programming. So, I was growing up on these themes, and I wanted to create a series that had a different kind of topic. I’m a big fan of crime thrillers and the great outdoors, so this was the perfect mix between those interests.”
He notes that the series was “the most personal” he’s done so far. The director is behind some of the most successful TV series in Scandinavia, in fact. When asked why he’s so drawn to crime thrillers, Alsvik said:
“It’s very hard to make a show and tell people about some of these things, but there are some issues that crime thrillers can address, and also by doing it in an intriguing way that feels important and exciting for the audience. I really love that genre for trying to tell something important about human beings, and about the relations between human beings with nature. But more so, it’s kind of teasing people into being curious about the themes you’re addressing in a series.”
Without a doubt, Alsvik has assembled some of the finest actors around in Fenris. He says he pulled from the incredibly talented and diverse Norwegian actors’ community, adding, “[I] chose most of the actors who come from that area, where the conflict is most serious. Instead of just going for the biggest names, I really wanted people who understood the conflict and experienced the conflict, because it gives you a special understanding when the actors know that.”
The Wolves, The Wolves
Environmental issues were key in Alsvik’s series. When asked what he felt most people may not understand about wolves, in general, he noted that, “There’s just like, 100 wolves left [in that area] and I wanted to also show how fantastic these animals are. And how precious nature is. That was really important for me.”
He says he and the team took great care in working with the actual animals featured here, and said:
“I was very nervous to start with, but I think it worked out really well. We used a dog breed that is 60% dog and 40% wolves, which is really close to what real wolves look like. What’s often challenging when you’re filming outdoor in nature is you have this big staff with all the trailers and all that, but we really scaled it down.”
To that end, the production team took to the woods of Norway, in and around Oslo, where the director kept things intimate and embarked on a bit of “guerrilla filmmaking” to actually access certain areas.
There was a thought about not leaving the biggest kind of CO2 footprint while doing the series. So that was also part of the ecological thoughts around it.
Capturing the Mountainous Beauty
Alsvik went on to say that the region he filmed in boasts one of the biggest mountain chains, but that he didn’t want to just show off nature, “like… look at this big mountain… we wanted the camera to be more within nature and have nature integrated into the series.”
The story plays out well here, captivating all around. As for the themes presented and what he hopes audiences resonate with, Alsvik immediately noted how human beings contemplate the human relationship to nature. “And also, that the mother is kind of the wolf mother,” he went on. “It’s something about family, and actually that wolves are quite like us, you know. They have the same instincts. So, here, you have two mothers and they’re protecting their offspring.”
Fenris is in Norwegian with English subtitles. You can stream it on Viaplay beginning Aug. 17, and check out the trailer below.