DVD Review: All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride

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Deck the halls with boughs of hygge: Mesmerising journey across a frozen wilderness.

With no commentary or music, and just the sound of hoofs crunching in the snow and reindeer bells, All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride is a hypnotic introduction to the lifestyle of a pair of Sami tribeswomen as they cross an ancient route on their reindeer sleigh.

A huge hit for BBC Four when it first aired in 2015, this eccentric documentary is an easy way to introduce a little hygge into your home. If you want to escape the hectic pace of the run-up to Christmas, then insert the disc into your player and lose yourself in an enchanting and relaxing experience.

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Shot from the point-of-view of a reindeer herder, All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride takes viewers on a very special journey across a snow-drenched wilderness. Filmed in Karasjok, Norway, it follows an ancient route used by the Sami people. Showing awe-inspiring scenery not usually seen by anyone except the indigenous culture, this real-time documentary follows a three-mile trail 200 miles north of the Artic Circle. Until the 1970s the region didn’t have a road so for centuries the only way to cross it was via reindeer sleigh.

Occasional on-screen captions provide fascinating information about Sami culture.

Watch while unwrapping your presents or nursing a glass of mulled wine, it’s an opportunity to appreciate the sights and sounds of a frozen landscape. The shots of snow covered forests, hills, and traditional Sami settlements without intrusive narration is the next best thing to actually being there.

Give a gift of All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride to put some hygge into your loved one’s life. Watching this two-hour trek is as soothing as enjoying a warm mince pie in front of an open fire.

All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride is available to order from Amazon.

DVD Review: The Saboteurs

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An epic recreation of one of World War Two’s most significant acts of sabotage.

Previously filmed as Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water and The Heroes of Telemark, The Saboteurs is a balanced re-telling of the Nazi regime’s attempts to be first in the race to create nuclear weaponry and the daring efforts of Norwegian troops to destroy a plant being used to create fission material. A supremely well-crafted series brings to the screen a turning point in the war and places events in historical context.

The Norsk Hydro plant in Telemark, Norway, had been producing heavy water in large quantities since 1934. At the outbreak of hostilities an arrangement was in place to supply the French government with heavy water for the duration of the conflict. After Nazi occupation supplies were commandeered and sent to Germany where they were used by scientists in experiments to create the first atomic bomb.

Allied governments suspected that Germany was trying to create a nuclear weapon and that heavy water may be a core ingredient in the process. Destroying the plant could change the course of the war.

Perched atop an icy ravine, the plant was protected by several layers of concrete and armed guards. To reach the facility the saboteurs had to cross a frozen river and climb a gorge. Senior officers doubted that the raid would be successful. KAMPEN_OM_TUNGTVANNETBreaking viewing records, The Saboteurs achieved the highest ratings this century when it was screened in Norway. 1.7 million viewers tuned into the series (the country’s population is 5.1 million).

Eschewing the triumphalist “boys own” tone employed by previous adaptations the series presents people on both sides of the conflict as complex emotionally driven individuals wrestling with moral dilemmas. Screenwriter Petter S. Rosenlund and Director Per-Olav Sørensen have produced a tense series that trounces all previous attempts to dramatise the mission.

Deep in the heat of Germany’s war machine, Nobel Prize winning physicist Werner Heisenberg (Christoph Bach) conducts experiments to build the first atomic bomb. His superiors are convinced that this weapon will ensure Germany is victorious. Heisenberg requires heavy water to control nuclear fission.

Following Germany’s occupation of Norway chemistry professor Leif Tronstad (Espen Klouman-Høiner) flees to London and makes contact with Military Intelligence. Working alongside Colonel John Wilson (Pip Torrens) and Captain Julie Smith (Anna Friel), Leif plans a sabotage mission.

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Several changes have been made to the story for dramatic purposes. The on screen director of Norsk Hydro is a fictional creation that amalgamates several figures. When Leif arrived in London he was not met by Captain Julie Smith (Anna Friel). Records show that no female officer was involved in planning the mission.

Undoubtedly the definitive screen version of the mission. Per-Olav Sørensen’s cinematic direction offers up a succession of breathtaking set pieces which highlights the human drama and .communicates the dangers faced by troops as they attempted to cross a treacherous snow covered mountainous landscape.

A fitting tribute to the real-life heroes of Telemark. The Saboteurs is a complex slow burning drama that bravely tries to understand what motivated each side in this conflict. Alongside Arrow Films’ Generation War it represents a new benchmark in War drama.

The Saboteurs can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saboteurs-DVD-Espen-Klouman-H%C3%B8iner/dp/B00YEBTC0A/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1439144559&sr=1-1&keywords=the+sabatours

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saboteurs-Blu-ray-Espen-Klouman-H%C3%B8iner/dp/B0105UYJ7Y/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1439144559&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=the+sabatours

DVD Review: Mammon – The Complete Season One

On New Years Day viewers in Norway settled down to watch the première of a brand new conspiracy thriller series possibly unaware that it had taken creators Vegard Stenberg Eriksen and Gjermund Eriksen nine years to bring their idea to the small screen. After several abortive attempts to attract interest in the project the decision to give the go-ahead for Mammon to enter production was made in 2010. Filming occurred between autumn 2011 and the summer of 2012 with a January 2014 transmission slot pencilled in by the Norwegian equivalent of the BBC, NRK.

The tenaciousness of the pair of creative siblings who birthed the show’s concept and then nursed it throughout every bumpy stage of the production process was suitably recompensed when the network gave it a prestigious slot at the dawn of a new broadcast season.

Long before the series aired a buzz about it had been building within the industry suggesting that here was what generations of a creative professionals had been trying to create, a hit which would cross borders and possibly crack into the all important English speaking market. Several months ahead of the première news broke that format rights had been sold to 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment. Momentum accelerated in the coming months following the announcement of the American remake as broadcasters across the globe expressed an interest in buying this dark and intense suspense filled programme. By the second week of transmission sales had been confirmed for Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland. That a UK network would buy Mammon was with hindsight inevitable but in a development which may have surprised some fans, the show found a home not with the traditional place for Scandinavian drama in Britain, BBC Four, but a new berth was offered by Channel 4 who immediately recognised the series’ high quality and wanted to bestow upon it the notable distinction of being the first ever foreign language series to air on its sister network More 4.

Published figures show that an average forty eight per cent of the Norwegian viewing population sat down each week to watch Mammon giving the network NRK its highest share of the audience in over a decade. This data was further bolstered with the addition of over a hundred thousand people who viewed it using catch up services, a not inconsiderable sum in the context of such a relatively sparsely populated country. An undeniable success in its homeland, Mammon arrived in the UK as fans were still mourning for the loss of Borgen and The Killing whilst at the same time feeling frustrated at having to wait for a third season on The Bridge. In short, the British audience has never before been more ravenous for fresh Nordic Noir and with Mammon fans have got the show they deserved.

Save for the American co-production Lilyhammer, Norway’s contribution to the blossoming of Norse TV was until recently scandalously under-represented leaving fans to construct an incomplete picture of the movement’s evolution. Barry Forshaw’s Pocket Essentials: Nordic Noir and Eva Novrup Redvall’s recently published Writing and Producing Television Drama in Denmark: From the Kingdom to The Killing validates claims that whilst our attentions were focused elsewhere Scandinavians were tearing up the rulebook and finding new ways to craft well written popular drama which would revolutionise the industry. Trailblazing at a frantic speed, their international competitors have been caught unawares and are left behind scrabbling around in the dust looking for series to remake or in the case of Broadchurch applying lessons learnt from studiously analysing The Killing and The Bridge. The much anticipated DVD release of Mammon affords fans the opportunity to finally recognize that Norway is capable of creating a sophisticated and adventurous bleak thriller that is equal to anything currently being made by its neighbours.

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Inspired by All the Presidents Men, Three Days of the Condor, and the BBC series State of Play, Mammon is a tale of sibling rivalry told over the course of six days (with the exception of introductory and concluding sequences) which riffs on the turmoil wrought upon Norway by the global banking crisis. Fearless journalist Peter Verås (Jon Øigarden) works in an evening newspaper. An idealist, he clings to a form of press ethics that has become largely outmoded in an age where the industry faces the ever present threat of irrelevancy due to social media and charges of moral bankruptcy as a consequence of the practices of a red top papers.

Haunted by guilt after writing a story about financial misdeeds that triggers his brother’s suicide Verås sifts through his records trying to discover the identity of the anonymous source who gave him the initial tip off. The mystery takes an unexpected turn when it is revealed that the informant was his now deceased brother. Aided by a former member of the Financial Crimes division, Vibeke Haglund (Lena Kristin Ellingsen), Peter uncovers a murky conspiracy with tendrils infecting his own paper, political figures, the financial elite, and a business school.

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Genre aware, Mammon is simultaneously familiar and strikingly original. Unashamedly brandishing its influences, the programme meshes high and popular culture. Not many mainstream drama series get to reference, Baudrillard, Kierkegaard, the Old Testament, and 1976 horror film The Omen. Over six episodes the screenplay plays mischievous games with viewers expectations and this spirit was present throughout the production as evidenced in a decision taken by the key creative team of writer, director and producer not to tell the cast who was playing the villain until the final days of shooting. The absence of key information about characters motivations until very close to the end of principal photography created a palpable tension on set and ensured the actors were on the same voyage of discovery as the audience at home.

A Kane and Abel for an age that fetishizes wealth. Mammon casts a critical eye over capitalism and places Norway at the centre of a Greek tragedy in which the entire nation is enslaved by dark forces that operate without checks or balances. Intelligently directed, packed with breathtaking moments, this is a high quality example of Nordic Noir so tense it will have fans chewing their fingers to the bone.

Mammon can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mammon-DVD-Jon-%C3%98igarden/dp/B00IZFU35O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399348698&sr=8-1&keywords=mammon

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