DVD review: 'Occupied,' the second invasion of Norway

The Norwegian TV series that's enraged the Kremlin.

RRP $39.99

Russian commandos have kidnapped the Norwegian prime minister. The Russian tricolour is flying over the capital. Citizens must decide whether they will collaborate with the occupation, or resist.

This is the scenario of Occupied, the Norwegian thriller TV series based on an idea by the writer Jo Nesbo. It first screened last year in Europe and imagines Norway in the near future after an energy crisis.

The Norwegian Green Party led by Prime Minister Jesper Berg, an idealistic politician with bold plans for thorium-based nuclear energy, cuts off all fossil fuel production.

The EU, in desperation, asks Russia to initiate an occupation of Norway. Mr Berg promises the Norwegian people the occupation is a temporary measure until oil and gas production can be restored by Russian working crews.

This intention unravels as a series of events complicate Norwegian-Russian relations over the ensuing months. The series of escalating complications begins when a member of the Royal Guard unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate the Russian ambassador, Irina Sidorova. Then a Russian agent is the victim of a hit-and-run and the Russian government demands Norway extradite the driver, a suspected Chechen terrorist.

A group called Fritt Norge (Free Norway) emerges and attacks a police headquarters. The Russian government uses this as an excuse to prolong its occupation. Tensions increase further as unexplained events occur at the Norway-Russia border and Russian naval fleet exercises off the coast of northern Norway.

Mr Berg asks the EU to protect Norway's sovereignty but the bloc fails to act.

Kremlin condemns series
The series hit a raw nerve with the Russians and the Kremlin has reacted, condemning the production as inflaming Scandinavian/Russian relations. 

While many see parallels with the Russian intrusion into the Ukraine and Crimea, others see historical links to the German invasion of Norway during World War II and the era of collaboration during the Quisling years of collaboration.

Occupied is centred on a few major players such as Prime Minister Berg, as well two couples – Thomas, a newspaper reporter, and his partner Benet, who owns a restaurant frequented by Russians; and Djupvik, a policeman attached to the PM’s office, and his wife, who is a judge. The couples have ambivalent connections with the occupation, which makes them part-observers, part-collaborators and part-opponents.

There are a few wry moments for the two main male characters, who are deeply involved in the politics. But because they are less convinced of their need to be racing around the town, the wives insist on child-minding activities and doing the dishes.

The programme deals with a number of important contemporary political and social issues aside from the threat of invasion from foreign powers.

There is an urgency in dealing with issues of climate change, the dependency on fossil fuels and extraction, the problems associated with the Green revolution, notions of democracy and the balances between local and international interests.

The series is full of dramatic action and political intrigue with a number of similar themes also in the French TV series Un Village Français, which deals with the occupation of France during World War II.

Occupied is the most expensive TV series ever undertaken in Norway and is co-produced with Arte, the Franco-German TV network, and the Swedish studio behind the Wallander TV series and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies. The series consist of three DVDs with 10 episodes, a total of 449 minutes.

Tune into NBR Radio’s Sunday Business with Andrew Patterson on Sunday morning, for analysis and feature-length interviews.

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