Television Business International

Show of the Week: Ride Upon the Storm

‘Ride upon the storm’ is a line from the William Cowper poem God Moves in a Mysterious Way and the title of a new magic-realism-infused series from Borgen creator Adam Price.

With some commentators suggesting Nordic noir is running out of steam, Price and Forbrydelsen net DR are seeking to reinvigorate drama from the region, and, as such, Ride Upon the Storm is a move away from the sombre, gritty crime series that have defined the genre.

Instead, the series is is about faith and the modern world, and notions of good and evil. “This was a project borne out of curiosity,” says Price. “To try and understand faith and religion as motives for human action and in the context of modern society.”

Lars Mikkelsen (House of Cards) is the patriarch of a key family in the series, and like their father, his sons August and Christian are priests. August is the model son, while his brother, though similarly talented, is restless and sometimes abusive. It is August, however, who loses his faith, and his relationship with his sibling breaks down.

Price says Ride Upon the Storm was formulated while he was working on the final season of political drama Borgen. Although it took several years to get into production, it is, he says, a tale for our times, but also one that needed a human touch. “So much right now in terms of society and clashes of culture are questions of religion,” he says. “DR said it was interested, so we had to make sure it had the right layers viewers could identify with, because a high-concept idea is no good without an emotional connection.”

DR has played a key role in popularising Nordic scripted programming and its drama boss, Piv Bernth, says it wants to evolve Nordic noir. “It’s important we change before the audience gets bored,” she says. “We want to be a little bit ahead of the audience.”

DR Fiktion is making the series with ARTE in France, ordering two 10-episode seasons off the bat. StudioCanal will distribute, while its subsidiary, Sam le Français is a production partner. Buyers will get a first look at the show at the MIPDrama Screenings, with the series part of a select line-up in Cannes.

One element not previously seen in Nordic noir is magical realism; in the context of this story, miracles. “It’s not realistic all of the time,” Price says. “It’s different to that brand of Nordic series based on gritty, dark realism. I said to Piv, ‘Is it okay if this is not realistic all of the time?’ If it is dealing with religion, you have to believe that for the people in the story there is a truth in miracles.”

In terms of the look of the series, it also breaks away from the sombre tones and colour palette that has become the signature of Nordic series. “It’s not muted, it’s quite fresh,” she says. “The sun is allowed to shine in this.”

TBI puts it to Bernth that Ride Upon the Storm is the first in a new wave of Nordic noir. “I hope you are right,” the DR drama chief says. “We want to do things that are different.”
The show: Ride Upon the Storm
The producers: DR Fiktion, SAM le Français
The distributor: StudioCanal
The broadcasters: DR (Denmark), ARTE (France)
The concept: Nordic noir drama set in a family of priests