Kenneth Karlstad did ‘Kids in crime’ (Filmin, Tuesday, the 17th)her series about wayward youth, thinking of other wayward youth, but in the end she won over even her mother’s crochet club and the Norwegian Association of Film and Television Producers, who decided to honor her with four Gullruten television (or Norwegian Emmys), including best drama series. The formula of this initiation story is winning: psychotropic delirium, shocking violence, trance soundtrack, good dose of humor and rather little morality.
In his move from music videos and shorts to series, Karlstad adopted the old motto of “write what you know.” The series is, he tells us by video call, at least 50% autobiographical. And especially in 50% of the series, the first four of its usually short (20 minutes) eight chapters. “Like my leading man, Tommy (Kristian Repshus), I also played sports as a teenager and had to quit due to an injury. To pass the time, I dedicated myself to hanging out with people my age. But the ones I was interested in were some older guys who were always messing things up, getting into fights and things like that.”
In a small town, Sarpsborg, where the new century has not brought great news, Tommy ends up being suckered into drugs and a life of crime after reconnecting with an old friend, Pål Pot. (Martin Ovrevik), suffering from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity) and lover of speed. Is his link to the biggest Rohypnol pusher in town: the charismatic Freddy Infierno (that Norwegian star named Jakob Oftebro), whose girlfriend Monica (Lea Myren) catches the eye of the two friends. What can go wrong in all this?
“The Rohypnol thing was almost like an epidemic in Norway,” recalls Karlstad. “It was very easy to get and it was very cheap. People started taking it without measure; it was like the gateway drug.” He managed to stop his sensation seeking before walking down worse halls. “I never got hooked on anything. It was just fun for me. When I was twenty-two, twenty-three years old, a lot of my colleagues started using harder drugs and it stopped being funny at all. I had become a carpenter and that’s what I concentrated on, carrying out my projects.”
A punishing government
Although our interviewee wanted to make an escapist series about escapism, he did not want to leave out the critical component. “The series is, in part, about how badly the Norwegian government dealt with young offenders in 2001. As we see in the introduction, there were many debates about what should be done with them, and the conclusions always seemed to be the same: punishment, punishment and more punishment, instead of trying to listen to them or find out what could be done about their problems.
In more ways than one, ‘Kids in crime’ invites comparisons with ‘trainspotting’but Karlstad also points to Scandinavian influences such as the ‘Pusher’ saga, by Nicolas Winding Refnof which is almost his youthful and semi-parodic revision, or ‘Lilya forever’indelible drama about sexual exploitation of lukas moodysson. Searching for the formal energy of all these references, Karlstad has fun embedding parts recorded on VHS into the 4K widescreen footage. “It’s as if the harsh reality breaks into the ‘cool’ world that the characters have in their heads,” says the director.
Already from the masterful sequence shot of the first fight (of a few) the importance of music for this promising filmmaker is clear: that hard trance song (‘Supa-dupa-fly’, by 666) is not there as a flourish, but is the essence of everything. “Music is the reason why I make movies. When I was young I put images in my head to the songs. My favorite scenes start from songs whose title was written in the script. Actually we were not going to use 666, but ‘La Passion’ by Gigi D’Agostino, but the man did not let us use it. Luckily in the end 666 turned out so well”.