🇸🇪 PARTISAN 🇸🇪
Partisan (2020-) is a Swedish TV crime/drama/thriller series available on Walter Presents U.K. 5 45-48 min episodes. Guidance. In Swedish with English embedded subtitles.
“Set in the idyllic surroundings of Jordnära, a gated community that runs a very successful organic farm. A man takes a job offer, soon learning about their unorthodox rules and routines.” (IMDb)
Fares Fares as Johnny
Johan Rheborg as Kent
Sofia Karemyr as Nicole
Frida Gustavsson as Clara
Ylvali Rurling as Maria
Emelie Garbers as Susanne
Anna Björk as Maud
Pelle Holmström as Victor
Linus Wahlgren as Richard
Kola Krauze as Piotr
Rafael Pettersson as Mateusz
Annica Liljeblad as Doctor
Patrick Saxe as Doctor
Idea: Mauricio Molinari
Writers: Amir Chamdin, Fares Fares, Hans Jörnlind, Charlotte Lesche, Dennis Magnusson, Francesca Maraki, Anna Platt, Axel Stjärne
Director: Amir Chamdin
Composer: Amir Chamdin
Edit or: Tomas Beije
Makeup: Annika Stödberg, Kassandra Muñoz Godocito, Emelie Wood Olsson
Music: Fredrik Ekander, Fatima Ornette Lutti
Costume: Sofie Krunegård, Sanna Nyström
Amir Chamdin is an award-winning Swedish director and musician, renowned for his work across music videos, feature films and TV series. He first made a name for himself as the front figure of the Swedish hip hop band Infinite Mass.
In 2017 he directed his first original TV series, Hassel, a realistic, hard-boiled police thriller series starring Ola Rapace.
Partisan set a record for the most-viewed Viaplay original show on its premiere night.
Partisan by Leonard Cohen:
⚠️ This review contains spoilers ⚠️
I had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Partisan as soon as it won the Canneseries Best Series award last year against the likes of Top Dog and Man in Room 301. So what did I make of this short series (only 5 episodes in season 1)?
As the lyrics say “You’ve got to accentuate the positive” so that is where I will start my review, however, I will not “Eliminate the negative”. (Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, just in case you were wondering).
All the things I very much liked about Partisan include the following:
The concept of the story, with the neo-Nazi “sect” and their extremely dodgy organic farm being infiltrated by an undercover cop with issues. The money laundering aspect is a good “in” and the way these “Ubermensch” relate to those who work for them works well.
That this story relates to issues around white supremacy, the concept of racial purity, prejudice and bigotry are both shocking and intriguing. (See links to Lebensborn and Eugenics in Notes) The gymnastic team’s practice and displays reek of the Third Reich (we just need a Leni Riefenstahl figure!) The experimentations (for that is what is at the heart of this story) are disgusting but quite in line with their beliefs.
The ripe racial slurs that are used are shocking but need to be. There is another parallel with the Polish guys who work for these people who regard themselves as a cut above “the Arab” but who are made up do all the dirty work (of the worst kind), live in portable cabins and are called by the slur “Pollacks” by their boss. This too is not dissimilar to what happened during the Third Reich. Of course, these men, being Slavs, would also be regarded as inferior yet they do not seem to register this. For me, this is a mirror of what easily happens between different immigrant groups where they are set against each other and feel themselves to be superior in some way. I very much liked that these aspects of the story make us think.
The choice of songs for the soundtrack (including the introductory credits) is excellent, as is their placement. What better way to start a show called Partisan than with “Partisan” by Leonard Cohen, not only for the melody but the haunting lyrics. I thought that “Sunset Finks” by Mike Granditsky was another good choice, as it is generally unknown and has such a strong atmosphere.
I loved the direction and cinematography of Partisan, from the opening sequence of the girl falling, through the amazing aerials to the hand-held camerawork and more. The lighting is often striking too.
A big shout out for the costuming (the sports kit and gymnastics gear are fabulous) and to whoever found the perfect locations.
All in all, there is a lot to like about Partisan however the series does have issues (I did say I was not going to eliminate the negative). Most of the negatives surround the way the story unfolds, a lack of sufficient depth to Johnny’s state of mind (not just his hearing loss and tinnitus), his motivation and an increasing number of very stupid decisions which the viewer finds hard to swallow.
There are too many plot holes and implausibilities in the second half of this series, which is a pity because up until that point it was really different and engaging. These range from shooting people (even though the protagonist does not know what we, the viewers know and guns are noisy!) to returning without back up rather than walking a mile in the other direction until you have mobile phone coverage… and the boss of the farm suddenly knowing where a potential escape route is.
Almost all shows do things like this at some time or another, but there is a tipping point where the viewer starts to eye roll and mutter “Really? Really?” There are a lot of writers on this show and I did wonder if that was what perhaps lead to some of these issues. There is a clear “end game” to this particular season but the way it is reached does not feel organic but rather forced and contrived, which is a pity.
Then there are small irritations such as not getting the Orthodox sign of the cross spot-on correct, to totally unexplained events which helped the plot along but leave the viewer thinking “What? How? Why?”
I would also have preferred that the Polish guys had not been so stereotyped because of being lazy, racist and glugging booze because… well it just is. They do come over as caricatures lacking in depth but not due to the way they are played but the way they are written.
Talking of the acting, I thought this was generally good throughout and the younger cast members impressed me greatly. The dialogue did not always help the actors.
There was a LOT about Partisan that I really liked especially the direction, camerawork and music. However, for me, there are writing issues surrounding the story, character development, events and plot holes. I will probably watch season 2 when/if it arrives here, although I am not sure where the story will go from here.
1 Win, 2 Nominations
Win – Cannes International Series Festival (CannesSeries, 2020) Best Series ~ Amir Chamdin, Mauricio Molinari, Johanna Wennerberg, Warner Bros. International Television Production Sverige
Nominations – C21’s International Drama Award (2020)
Venice TV Award (2021) Best TV Series ~ Johanna Wennerberg, Fredrik Ljungberg, Amir Chamdin, Viaplay
More Swedish TV Shows: