Canneseries Review: Power Play
The 1970s-set series, centring on Norway's first female prime minister, plays like 'Borgen' with laughs.
Gro Harlem Brundtland started out as a doctor. Climbing the ranks, she became Norway’s first female Prime Minister. Now, the new show “Power Play” takes a closer look at her way to the top. Playing in the main competition at this year’s Canneseries, which ran April 14-19, the show took the award for Best Series.
Staring Kathrine Thorborg Johansen as Gro Harlem Brundtland, a young doctor and women’s choice activist in the 1970s, who, through a series of accidents, stumbles into politics and, while the government around her implodes, learns to play the power game, rising the ranks to become Norway’s first female prime minister. Brundtland served three terms as PM; she was also the director-general of the World Health Organization. Although she entered politics back in the 1970s, things are still rocky for high-profile female politicians. Recently, Jacinda Ardern resigned as PM of New Zealand, while Finland’s Sanna Marin lost the election at the beginning of April. Brundtland was the first female prime minister of any Nordic country, not just Norway, and one of Scandinavia’s leading figures in the fight for women’s rights, gender equality and abortion rights, standing on a par with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem in the U.S. and Simone Veil in France.
“Things have changed, but they haven’t fully changed. Just think about the reaction to [Sanna Marin] dancing video. It was crazy! In that sense, it’s a very modern series,” notes Yngvild Sve Flikke, who directed four episodes, also mentioning Brundtland’s fight for abortion rights. “We wanted to go behind the scenes of social democracy as well, see how it has dissolved and turned into what we have today. It felt like the right time to look at the mechanisms of power.”
The stakes portrayed here are high, yet the creators decided to embrace a satirical approach, just like they did in their pregnancy dramedy “Ninjababy,” awarded in Berlin and at the EFAs. “We like to tell serious stories and add humour to them. It’s the kind of challenge that scares you, but it keeps you going,” says Flikke, who directed, with Fasting adding: “I think we are trying to build on that previous collaboration, tone-wise. I knew that Yngvild would make it fun and she would make it work.”
While Armando Iannucci-like antics of politicians who fight hard and drink even harder could boost the show’s international prospects, the team was more interested in attracting a young audience. Flikke, albeit born in the 1970s, also tried to make it feel “younger. In Norway, everyone above 60 will watch this show anyway. But I want my teenage daughters to see it too, or any 18-year-old interested in politics. I want them to embrace it as a drama series that doesn’t feel like a history lesson. Fasting said: ‘We are not going to explain things. We aren’t teachers.’ Young people watch shows on their phones. If they are interested in something, they will just google it.”
“Power Play” is produced by Motlys and Novemberfilm, with REinvent International Sales handling international distribution.