Last year the Nordicana festival played host to stars from Borgen, The Killing and Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia from The Bridge, then just before the series two finale was due to be screened on BBC4. There were also screenings from Scandinavian films and TV shows. It was a Scandi lover’s wet dream and this year, after relocating to the enormous Troxy theatre in east London, the likes of Sofie Gråbøl, Moa Gammel from Jordskott and stars from 1864 gathered to take the plaudits from fans of Scandinavian drama. The Bridge’s Sofia Helin was also there, just after wrapping for series three of The Bridge. Guest blogger Richard Fernandez was on hand for The Killing Times.
You’ve got to hand it to Sofia Helin. She has finished filming the third series of The Bridge, a series that explores further the character of detective Saga Norén. Being Saga is something Helin finds painful, so it is relieving to leave her behind. Now, just a few weeks later, Helin is taking the stage at Nordicana, for another question and answer session about her character and about the show.
Helin is one of only two non-Brits to take part in both 2014 and 2015 Nordicana events (the other is Camilla Hammerich, the Borgen producer). The 2014 event was at the height of Bridge-mania, with fellow actor Kim Bodnia also in attendance. Bodnia went AWOL for the screening of the episode in which his character Martin Rohde is arrested; in real life, as in fiction, Helin is abandoned and alone (albeit with 2,000 adoring fans) together with Saga’s Porsche. (Saga’s Megadrive! Geddit?!)
But Helin tells event moderator Wendy Mitchell that she likes these events: “We get to meet the people to whom we tell the story.” Yet it must be difficult giving many of the same answers to the same questions, while being unable to give too much away about the next series. You sense a little sigh when she is asked once more about the leather trousers (‘they’re practical’) or talks about how the Porsche wasn’t fun to drive. But she has a relaxed answer about the other perennial, about the bar scene in which Saga initiates a one-night stand: “In Sweden, we say it is good to eat when you’re hungry.”
We start at the beginning. She wasn’t sure she was interested in playing Saga, and it was only after talking with the crew and Kim Bodnia that she realised The Bridge would be something special. She worked with the writers to develop ideas for her character, and Bodnia developed Martin to be patient with her. It was hard to understand Kim at first – but then Saga Norén finds it hard to understand people. Now, says Helin, she understands Danes. This makes her less interested in the Sweden/Denmark question: she’s done it and she’s moved on (though the Danish police are portrayed in series three). At times, you get the feeling that Helin the actor has moved on from Saga Norén, but she’s too much of a professional to make a fuss about it.
The audience, of course, love Saga, and that might make Saga herself happy. ‘She wants to be loved and she never wants to be alone. That helps people feel empathy for her.’ We can see what makes Sofia Helin want to play Saga Norén. For Helin, acting is all about the characters and psychology and relationships, not so much the action and stunts we see from time to time. The scene at the end of the first series – the dénouement on the Øresundsbron itself – was tough, but partly because she is scared of heights. Yes, she can leave Saga at the front door, once she’s out of her costume, “I’m not her anymore – until I have to rehearse.”
We obliquely approach the third series. TV is better work than theatre, because you get to develop the character more, but it’s always about the story. And series three is the one that really unwraps the layers of Saga Norén. We will know more about her and also about her past. We meet Saga’s mother, who is, we are warned, “not a nice person”. The theme will be how families change over time.
But Helin is matter-of-fact about the matter that has troubled many of us. There is no Martin. He is in jail. Saga misses him but is rational about it. “She has accepted that she will be alone.” For Sofia Helin, the departure of her partner is a powerful decision, but best for the story. “It really worked.” Of Saga’s love life, last touched upon in her shambolic series two romance, her actor remarks that maybe she will find love some day, some time. “Dunno.”
There’s an obvious question about series four, and the answer doesn’t sound good. “No one knows”. But it would have to be a great story because series three has really explored Saga’s character. But let’s not mourn The Bridge just yet. We still have 10 episodes to see. And we will see plenty more of Sofia Helin. Currently, she’s working on a sci-fi enviro-disaster movie. The audience look round at each other. What, they are wondering, would Saga Norén say?
Richard Fernandez is the writer of How to win power and lose everything, a commentary of Borgen series 1 available from Amazon. He blogs at cafethinking.wordpress.com
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