On the eve of the DVD release of series one of Dicte, via the Acorn Label, I managed to snaffle a chat with Dicte Svensson herself, Iben Hjejle. If anyone’s been reading the site during the show’s run on More4 you’ll know that I’ve enjoyed the show immensely and Hjejle’s performance as the central character, so I was delighted when she agreed to speak with me and The Killing Times. Her words are after the jump… (and don’t worry, there’s a review of the series one finale coming in the next day or two… it has been a busy weekend!)
The Killing Times: Had you read Elsebeth Elgholm’s books before the show?
Iben Hejlje: I was aware of the books and the character but I had never read them. Can you believe that? But they are here in a big stack in my reading room, so it’s something I really have to do.
TKT: Was that a conscious effort not to read the books, because of trying to develop the character yourself?
IH: Yes, exactly. It’s a very different process so it was a conscious decision to not read them when we first started. I think it was a good decision, but also I have to say that we met several times with Elsebeth. The first season is very much based on her books, but the second season and the third is our writers making everything up. The thing is Elsebeth is actually very happy with our Dicte. She always says it has nothing to do with her Dicte, but she’s very happy with ours and she’s very happy she gave up the rights to us. That’s wonderful!
TKT: Everyone here in the UK is crazy for Scandinavian and Nordic crime drama. Dicte is different from a person say, a Sarah Lund or a Saga Norén, and very likeable and good in social situations in ways that Lund and Saga aren’t. Did you warm to her immediately?
IH: I really admired that character. There’s nothing more wonderful than playing a character that’s close to yourself in age and maybe some of the experiences in life. At the same time, she’s smarter, quicker and much braver than me! She’s such a wonderful character. She speaks before she thinks, too! It has been such a privilege to lend her my input. She’s up to three seasons now, which is something like five-and-a-half years of my life. I really hope that I have embraced some her qualities myself.
TKT: So it’s almost like you have a two-way relationship with Dicte…
IH: Exactly. I’ve never, ever before in my life lived with a character for that long. It has been a lovely relationship. She’s like an older, smarter sister to me! She’s been a wonderful character to be with. You talked about Sarah Lund and Saga before and they are darker. Their drive comes from somewhere else, whereas Dicte wants to be happy and she wants the people around her to be happy. There’s nothing that she won’t do to keep the people she loves happy. She doesn’t much care if they’re happy with her, but she does want them to be happy.
TKT: It gives equal weight to personal relationships – with Wagner, with Rose, with her friends, with Bo – is this what gives it its special edge?
IH: I really do think so. That’s what makes it different from the other Scandinavian noirs. There isn’t very much noir in Dicte. It’s another genre. It’s like a relationship drama with that bit of crime. It’s not overwhelming but it’s there, and Dicte deals with it. So it does have that contrast with some difficult things, but it’s also relationships with her family, friends and work colleagues. It’s a very lovely contrast. It’s almost like an old-fashioned soap opera.
TKT: Some of my favourite moments are with Dicte and her two best friends – Anne and Ida Marie – when they’re sitting around drinking and talking about life. How do you Lærke [Winther Andersen] and Lena Maria [Christensen] get on? The chemistry seem and feel very natural onscreen…
IH: Oh my god, how lucky am I? We often just sit around and chat and have fun. One of the assistant directors once came up to us and told us that the director was actually trying to direct us, so could we be quiet! We would just be blathering on and having so much fun. The few times there was something serious, they would have to be us split up. They would have to film Lærke first, and then Lena Maria… and we had to turn our backs because we would be laughing so hard. What’s also funny about this tiny country, Denmark, is that everyone knows each other in the acting business. So Lærke and Lena Maria I knew from before. Not well, but we did know each other and always admired each other’s work. We really liked each other and we could actually be good friends in real life. We just have so much fun.
TKT: Dicte is a parent and so are you in real life, and the show deals with ideas of parenthood all throughout the first series. Is this another reason that makes Dicte such an interesting programme/character?
IH: I think if you asked any parent they would tell you they would do anything to protect their child. They would murder or kill, for sure, and do terrible, awful things to save their children. So that theme really dates back to the old Greek drama – what would you do for your sons and daughters? What’s so lovely about that in the first season is that Dicte has been forced to do something when she was only 15 or 16-years-old (forced to give away her baby). Obviously that was a catastrophe in her life, but at the same time she was so young and it now tells us what she consists of. What is fundamental in her life. She leaves her family, she gets kicked out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses… and she fights for herself now. That’s the most vulnerable when we see Dicte – when she’s alone with herself and her thoughts about her long-lost son. How is he? What’s he doing? How did this happen? The crime stories are also related to children and parenthood, so everywhere she turns there’s something about it there. She then has to make a decision on whether she wants to dig into that area.
TKT: You mentioned that there’s a second and third season, too… what can you tell us about those series?
IH: In the second season it’s much more about women, but in the third season everything’s going to explode. I can’t really say too much about that because it hasn’t even aired yet in Denmark! It’s going to be excited.
Interview: Paul Hirons (@Son_Of_Ray)
For all our reviews of Dicte, go here
Dicte Crime Reporter Season One is out via Acorn Films on 11th July. Five gripping tales (Personal, Deductible, Hidden Defects, Life and Body, Violence and Power) are told over ten episodes, which are drawn from the crime novels of bestselling Danish author Elsebeth Egholm