EXCLUSIVE: The Bridge creator Hans Rosenfeldt has said he is “not really watching crime shows at the moment,” as he talks up his big-budget Viaplay adaptation of fantasy novel Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, the streamer’s “most ambitious project to date.”
Rosenfeldt is deep in the edit on Ronja, which is being shopped at this week’s London TV Screenings, and he said adapting the Astrid Lindgren Swedish adventure classic has made a refreshing change from his decades of writing crime.
“I am not really watching crime shows at the moment,” said Rosenfeldt, who has penned four seasons of smash Scandi noir hit The Bridge, three of ITV/Netflix’s Marcella and several crime novels. “I have worked in crime for 30 years and whenever I work I’m working on crime so when I watch something or read something I like it to be something else.”
When approached by a producer he had worked with on The Bridge last year about a new project, Rosenfeldt’s first reaction was to think, “Oh no, not another crime show,” but he was pleasantly surprised to be offered the opportunity to adapt a book that has sold 165M copies globally and been translated into more than 100 languages – penned by the iconic author of Pippi Longstocking.
The result is Viaplay’s “most ambitious project to date and one of Scandinavia’s most ambitious as a whole,” according to Rosenfeldt and Viaplay Chief Content Officer Filippa Wallestam, which Rosenfeldt said has been “updated for the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings generation.” In Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, the protagonist lives amongst a clan of robbers in a castle in the woodlands and must reckon with being born into a life of crime.
“The audience will be able to see the ambition when they watch it,” added Wallestam of the Swedish-language show that featured in Deadline’s Six International Dramas to Watch of 2023. “No one involved with the show will watch and say, ‘Oh I wish we could have done that, or added that.’ Everyone in the region wanted to work on this as it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Viaplay fronted up the full undisclosed budget for the project, which is produced by Banijay label Filmlance and is now seeking pre-buyers at the Screenings.
After being vetted and given approval to forge the adaptation by the Lindgren estate, Rosenfeldt’s approach was to stay true to the book while expanding the story to fill 12 episodes. He made it more adult-friendly by diving into the protagonist’s inner conflict, adding more frightening, supernatural elements via VFX and delving deeper into the Romeo and Juliet-style friendship between Ronja and best friend Birk.
“They wanted me to age it up a bit and bring some scariness,” he said.
The book has so far spawned a 1984 film directed by Tage Danielsson, a musical and a Japanese anime, which were all targeted at children, and Rosenfeldt said the Viaplay version is “very much an adaptation of the original book, not the film.” “It’s a very modern take on Ronja without losing anything about what she was about.”
With that in mind, Rosenfeldt and Wallestam stressed that there are very few older Scandinavian stories that still have resonance today in the vein of Ronja the Robber’s Daughter.
“Her strong bond with nature is very fitting for the age we live in,” Rosenfeldt went on to say. “While we’re not preaching, there is a sense throughout the show that we need to care more about the environment. This is important for the younger generation.”
Viaplay heads to U.S.
The pair were speaking with Deadline just a few days after Viaplay launched in the U.S., a big moment for the nimble Scandi streamer that has been rolling out in more territories over the past year including the UK and The Netherlands, while greenlighting one original per week.
Wallestam was heading straight to New York from London to promote Viaplay U.S. and she talked up how the platform hosts the “next wave” of Scandi content, shows that are imbued with the qualities of Scandi noir but spread to other genres such as lighter comedies The Meaning of Life and Love Me.
“Noir isn’t just crime but it is a way of telling stories and you can do that in any genre,” she said. “The Nordic method is to show the world without an unnecessary polish.”
The U.S. and UK have taken this approach of late on critically-acclaimed projects including the likes of HBO’s Mare of Easttown and the BBC’s Happy Valley, Wallestam added.
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