As the winter draws in, we’re drawn to our television screens… more specifically, to escapist scenes of summer sun. Now in its eighth series, Seaside Hotel (Badehotellet) is one of Denmark’s most popular series of the last decade. It’s the creation of husband-and-wife team HANNA LUNDBLAD and STIG THORSBOE…
Hanna, first of all, can I just say how much I’ve enjoyed the drama… there are only two series so far here in the UK, but it’s been really good to watch some summery television in a cold winter! Were you feeding that appetite when you created the series?
No, actually that was an additional quality. When we created it in 2012 Danish television had been dominated by ‘Nordic noir’ for ten years. My husband and I knew we had to do something completely different. We were inspired by Richard Curtis, where you can go from intense and touching to bursting into laughter.
There are two things I loved about your series. Firstly, the sense of place. Secondly, the sense of character. Are these based on your own encounters… do you holiday in Jutland?
Both my husband and I have childhood experience of living in summer cottages. My mother is from Jutland and her father bought her a cabin when I was a baby. So, every year of my life I’ve been by the North Sea. I know the sea, the dunes, the smell of heather and the vast horizon. We knew we wanted to make a historical series as we’d just made one. We were looking for an ‘upstairs-downstairs’ feel and we found this idea of a seaside hotel, so we realised it should be in the interwar period and there should be three clashes: servants and guests, locals and urbanites and men and women.
Series 2 is set around the Wall Street Crash. Series 8 is set during the Second World War. Do they reflect what people were thinking at the time?
In the interwar period, definitely.
Obviously, the ‘upstairs-downstairs’ situation no longer exists in Denmark. What does the series mean now?
Nowadays it reflects something else. In my lifetime democracy has been something we took for granted… an everlasting right and institution. But we have seen it attacked more and more – just look at the United States these past few months. When we created the series, there had just been the 2008 economic crash. What we could see leading up to the crash was excessive spending, and we thought it reflected the Wall Street Crash of 1929. So, we thought our first series should be set in the ‘roaring twenties’, having the Wall Street Crash as a turning point, leading up to the Great Depression and the Nazi’s rise to power. None of our guests realise what’s going on, except one. After the fifth season we jumped to 1939. Now you might think the guests are ready to listen, as in the sixth series there’s a Jewish refugee and by the seventh Denmark is occupied. But the guests don’t notice… why bother, they go on holiday as usual. So, it’s like the Titanic: the band is playing as an iceberg holes the ship and nobody notices.
By 1943, when series 8 is set, the ship has hit the iceberg. What more can you tell us?
Yes, about the eighth series. Well, Germany has won big victories all over Europe and Hitler is heading towards Moscow in the summer of 1941. At the Seaside Hotel, the guests have new neighbours: the Germans have taken over the next-door hotel. But as our dear character Edward Weyse says in the opening: “If we pretend they aren’t there, they don’t have to be there”. So, you could say Stig and I have tightened the screw… when are the guests going to realise, they have to act.
Finally, Hanna, tell me a bit about filming. I see you record quite a lot not in Jutland, but in a studio…
We have a studio here in Copenhagen where the hotel interior stands permanently. Actually, it’s an old farmyard, so it gets the cast in character when they arrive! Outside, we’ve built half the exterior, which is completed digitally with VFX. But all the other outdoor scenes are recorded on location in Jutland.
So some of it’s real…
The nature is real!
HANNA LUNDBLAD is a Danish screenwriter.
Series 8 of Beach Hotel started on TV2 in Denmark last week. Series 1 and 2 are available in the UK via All 4.
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