With a budget of 90 million crowns ($10.89 million), a cast of high profile Norwegian actors, and a story based on an idea by Jo Nesbø, expectations are high for the premiere of Occupied (Okkupert) which starts October 4th on TV2.
After an environmental disaster in Norway, an environmental movement leads to the election of a Green Prime Minister. He stops oil and gas production in Norway, which results in an energy crisis in Europe. As a result the EU backs a Russian invasion of Norway in order to get the country to resume oil and gas production.
The Russian embassy in Oslo wrote in a letter to broadcaster TV2: “One should not expect any hysteria from the Russian side – it’s not our style. At the same time, it is unfortunate that during the year marking the 70th anniversary of the victory in World War Two, the show’s writers, as if they have forgotten about the heroic effort by the Soviet army in the liberation of northern Norway from Nazi occupants, intimidate Norwegian viewers with a non-existent threat from the east.”
However, Christopher Haug, TV2’s head of drama, said: “In our story it is the EU that gives Russia the green light to invade Norway and the U.S. has withdrawn from NATO. It’s fiction. It is not done with intent. This is a project that has been going on for a long time. First and foremost it’s about Norway and Norwegians, about what happens in an occupied country where life appears to go on as normal but where some people are ready to sacrifice themselves to fight for freedom.”
A journalist in Norway for the news agency Tass, Russian Jury Mikhaylenko, is equally critical of Occupied. He thinks that most Russians will be exasperated that such a theme should be considered today, even in a TV series. “TV2’s drama boss said to me that this is just fiction, but he forgets that all the arts are helping to shape our attitudes. Therefore, I think Occupied will help to stigmatise Russians with outdated notions.”
“They’re commenting on a series they haven’t even seen yet,” said director Erik Skjoldbjaerg, accusing the Russians of being “opposed in principle”. “We played a little with the geopolitical reality and we created a fictitious Norway, a fictitious Russia and a fictitious international context,” he added, stressing that the show portrayed an occupation without military invasion. “The idea was born and production began way before the political situation arose in Ukraine. Occupied is in no way a commentary on this situation,” he added.