Måns Mårlind’s ambitious series continues this evening on Canal +. The Swedish creator (The Bridge) tells us behind the scenes of this historic drama, which explores with stunning precision the dark and torn Berlin of 1946 …
You are a Swedish author, the series is set in Germany, but was filmed largely in the English language, with Americans. As a result, Shadowplay, It’s a serie…
Måns Mårlind : Can we say that it’s an international series? (laughs) Because 70% of the series is in English, but there is also Russian, German. After that, the funding comes largely from the United States, which I suppose is basically an American production.
What made you want to write this plot, located in the middle of an unknown page of history books, in 1946?
The first reason is that it is a period that has been little explored in cinema or on television. And the city of Berlin has also been little explored. We saw battles in World War II, the Cold War that followed. But almost nothing on this precise period, on the direct consequences of the defeat of Germany and the injuries that this generated. But at the same time, by extension, I wanted to tell a story of damaged people, who want to redeem themselves.
What you are describing is hell on Earth. An extremely dark period ….
The series is less gloomy than it actually was. There are a lot of things I chose not to tell. Like cannibalism. It is often said that the post-war period is almost tougher than the war itself. Because there is a lot of rage. In the end, I don’t believe that Shadowplay be a series as dark as that … To be honest, I do dark things, because I love to show the light! I am a very sentimental person. But if you tell beautiful things, and just beautiful things, you have nothing. Or a Disney story. The harder, rougher the decor, the more beauty emerges. The more it is highlighted.
Shadowplay is a fascinating historical noir thriller (review)
What is exciting about Shadowplay, it is the extreme precision of the decoration which you paint. It took a lot of upstream work?
I have never done as much research as for this series. In Germany, it’s still a trauma. You can’t go down there and film like that. You have to work on the subject first. Because we find ourselves talking to people who are still affected by this period, by the War, by the image of Nazism. Of course, all that is said in Shadowplay is just fiction. The characters are invented. But what is real is that there were really 200,000 rapes reported to the authorities in Berlin between the end of the war, in May, and the summer that followed! This is completely crazy. From there, I imagined who would have wanted to take advantage of this tragic situation, since there was no more penicillin, no abortion possible, no accessible care. A villain who manipulates and owns the women he helps, and who was inspired to me directly by the history books in fact.
Where was shot Shadowplay ? How did you go about recreating this Berlin from 1946?
Every time we do a show, we try to put our finger on the X factor, the thing that is going to piss you off. For Shadowplay, it was clearly the city of Berlin version 1946. Because it does not exist any more today. Today’s Berlin is a modern, concrete city that we see in Cold War films. It does not look at all like that of the time. So everything had to be recreated. Especially since I am for total realism and I hate shooting in the studio. But we were lucky: we found in Prague a gigantic old abandoned factory, with identical architecture, a huge thing with streets and everything. The place had been completely burnt down, destroyed. So we put the cameras there. We were able to shoot 360 degrees, and at the end of each street, we had giant green screens installed, to add CGI effects. The result gives an impression of raw realism, you can feel the dust, the debris. It works really well.
Your series is at the crossroads of several genres. Would you say it’s a historical drama? A detective show ? A black thriller?
I used the same technique that I used to write Polar Day and The Bridge. That is to say, I want to address a political issue, but I hide it in a criminal story. In Polar Day, for example, I was talking about the horrible way our Indians in Sweden were treated. The subject may seem a bit boring at first, but if you include it in a “murder mystery”, then people listen and learn. Elements of the thriller drive the story of Shadowplay. But this engine, as often, is not the center of what I want to tell. Here I want to talk about Europe and Europe today, the current very dangerous period in which we are. This is the message. A bit like in Inception in fact (laughs)! I try to put ideas in people’s heads without really realizing it …