Three-part TV rock series is named after Morrissey’s debut solo album.
Director Jens Lien dreamt of being a rock-and-roll star when growing up in Oslo in the 1980s. Instead he became a filmmaker. Not a bad second choice, particularly considering his award-winning resume includes Bothersome Man and Sons of Norway.
Taking a departure from film, the Norwegian director has most recently linked up with ex Swedish rocker Peter Birro for the three-part TV series titled Viva Hate (named after Morrissey’s debut solo album). The hour-long episodes work as an extended feature that is set in Gothenburg’s 90s music scene.
“When I read Peter’s script – I thought, ‘Wow, this really captures what it was like at that time.’ Music was everything, and in and amongst that was finding acceptance, love and your identity,” said Lien.
This past week at Gothenburg’s Way Out West Festival, he and Birro screened a work-in-progress of the first episode.
The head of film programming, Svante Tidholm, confessed it is not something the festival normally does, but since the material is so closely tied to the festival’s spirit, it was a natural submission.
The sold-out event reassured the filmmakers that music and film fans of all ages could relate with the characters and music from the period. English bands including The Cure, Morrissey, The Cult and The Clash are played throughout, and are referenced on a deeper level in terms of cultivating relationships.
“A serious conflict arises for the main character (whose God is Morrissey) when he meets a girl that is a Cure fan - those two worlds didn’t collide at that time,” insists Lien.
It is these moments that make the series authentic, that also prompted uproarious laughter in Gothenburg’s Capitol Cinema.
“I always wanted to make a film that captures the essence of this time – you are so hungry to be seen – to show you can be something. You haven’t seen failure yet,” says Lien.
But what he didn’t expect was the arduous shoot due in part to costume and set changes.
“We had to think about everything – the signs in the background, what kind of cars were on the street. We could never just start shooting. I thought I was going to take a break from this after Sons of Norway (set in the late 1970s), but here I am again,” laughed Lien.
Funded by Swedish Television, the TV series will air in its entirety in a prime slot over the Christmas break. If additional budget permits, the director plans to edit the footage to two hours in efforts to bring the project to a wider international audience.
Next up is a possible feature length project based in the US. While nothing is confirmed, Lien will continue jamming with his family in the basement.
“I was in a bunch of small bands in Oslo in the 80s, and then a really informal band while attending London International Film School in the early 90s. Thankfully I found film – I don’t think my career would have lasted that long. But I really enjoy spending time playing music with my sons – you never know what could happen with this,” smiles Lien.