Series review: Love & Anarchy
by Jan Lumholdt
- Lisa Langseth’s play on the corporate and intellectual circles of metropolitan Stockholm is smart, silly fun for grown-ups, offering food for thought along the way
As in her fiction features Pure [+see also:
film profile], Hotell [+see also:
film profile] and Euphoria [+see also:
film profile], Lisa Langseth continues to explore sociological and existential themes in the eight episodes of Love & Anarchy, the first Swedish Netflix series based on an original screenplay. The setting is a slightly twisted version of an opulent European metropolis – in this case Stockholm – with a brassy corporate culture, anxiously mincing intellectual circles and outwardly perfect lifestyles flaunted by all players, embellished with cocky jargon, and with every conceivable blemish carefully concealed under a glossy sheen.
One such mustard-cutting individual is Sofie Rydman, a hard-nosed business developer with a keen eye for figures and how they relate to creative originality. On paper, she has it all – a picture-perfect home, a pair of choice offspring and a hunky hubby. Granted, her father, a distraught old leftist, is a bit of a hassle (there are shades of Toni Erdmann [+see also:
Q&A: Maren Ade
film profile], with which there’s a kinship here). On the other hand, she’s ready for her next career conquest, catapulting the time-honoured Lund & Lagerstedt publishing house into the digital age. “Will there be lay-offs?” an employee enquires at the introductory meeting. “To me, you’re more than just people; you’re all individuals,” replies Sofie with serpent-like warmth, moving in to constrict. At that very moment, a latecomer enters the congregation, a somewhat slapdash young IT technician named Max, who will start to upend Sofie’s perfect scheme. It all starts when he happens to catch her relieving herself from the general stress via a spot of online porn and decides to record the sordid action, just in case it comes in handy at some point…
It will, and it does. Max confronts Sofie with a demand, and she will have to comply if she wants him to delete the scandalous file. Grudgingly, she agrees. Then, possibly stimulated by the sudden fresh breeze of audacity, she decides to “re-challenge” Max. A game between the two will soon escalate, generating considerable havoc, and possibly also allowing them to regain some of the things that got lost on the way to “having it all”.
Such is the gist of Langseth’s merry morality play, boosted by a number of sub-plots and character studies, all offering food for thought regarding freedom, interpersonal communication, happiness and self-realisation. The publishing house setting provides ample pay-offs involving assorted contemporary culture debates and gender issues. Ida Engvoll leads (much better than her on-screen character) a handpicked cast consisting of Johannes Kuhnke (hunky hubby), Lars Väringer (distraught dad), Björn Kjellman (a very conflict-shy CEO), Reine Brynolfsson (a stuffy literature director) and Gizem Erdogan (a woke PR manager) as well as promising newcomers Elsa Agemalm Reiland as Sofie’s teenage daughter and Björn Mosten as Max, the latter a possible hot new discovery. Ulf Brantås’ lively camerawork fits in with the “anarchy” bit, and the “love” for these flawed characters is unmistakable. It’s smart, silly fun for grown-ups.
Love & Anarchy was produced by FLX, and it is distributed globally by Netflix from 4 November.
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