Clark (Sweden, 2022). Creator: Jonas Akerlund. Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Vilhelm Blomgren, Sandra Ilar, Hanna Björn, Isabelle Grill, Malin Levanon, Björn Gustafsson. Available in: Netflix. Our opinion: good.
Like in Good boys by Martin Scorsese, where Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) decided to assume his voice and tell his story tangled between truths and lies, in the new Swedish miniseries Clarkit is the famous bank robber, architect of the well-known “Stockholm syndrome”, who tells his story in the first person.
“If I can’t be the best of the best, I’ll be the best of the worst,” Clark Olofsson (Bill Skarsgård) announces gibberish at the start of the first episode. And this is how the six-episode miniseries that condenses his fabled life, but also the fable of his life, is conducted. A kind of crazy itinerary that mocks from its satirical perspective any seriousness of the story, but at the same time any vocation of documentary record. Clark is the epic of a criminal that has as much of the Virgill Starkwell of He robbed, fled and was caught of Woody Allen, as of the seductive psychopaths of the 70s, without massacres or macabre ceremonies, but with the essential halo of any criminal celebrity.
Clark Olofsson’s story begins at his eventful birth, pushing his way out into a world he thought awaited him, only to land in a poor Stockholm home run by a violent and abusive father. The intelligence for flight and survival was forged with his mother (Sandra Ilar) through a series of games and pantomimes, de-dramatizing that brutal environment that Clark strips bare in his own fantasy. The series created by Jonas Åkerlund, musician and director known for the disturbing Lords of Chaos (2018) on the move of the black metal Norwegian in the 90s, never abandons comedy as a platform, and chooses an intelligent and daring structure: although it follows the character’s criminal chronology, it explores in parallel both the presence of those who were decisive in his story – mother, girlfriends, henchmen, persecutors- like that internal world marked by chaos and excess, a gesture that tenses logic until it infects it with hallucination.
Clark’s main merit is his ability to escape, both from the juvenile correctional facility in which he was interned in his youth and from the maximum security prisons in which he is confined due to the growing magnitude of his crimes. On each occasion the strategy he employs owes less to force than cunning, combining seduction and politics virtuously and effectively. For this reason, the rhythm of the miniseries assumes the vertigo of each escape -17 in total!- as part of a narrative that does not give rest or offer too much reflection beyond the result of the acts. Åkerlund seems to be more interested in the extravagance of the character, his alteration of Nordic rectitude, the foresight of his judicial system, the ultimate concept of the welfare state, than the detailed analysis of his criminal acts, the mechanics of his escapes or the possible psychopathy that would embody a psychiatric diagnosis.
While Clark is the architect of his unpredictable destiny, a pathological crush and an activist by interest, the miniseries never offers a counterpoint beyond his arrogant and brazen voice, and when he follows the itinerary of his pursuer, the policeman Tommy Lindström (Vilhelm Blomgren), his portrait resembles that of Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther. In that sense, the connection is less that of the feverish and almost codependent obsession outlined by Steven Spielberg in Catch Me If You Can, with clear paternal echoes between the criminal played by Leonardo DiCaprio and the persecutor played by Tom Hanks, but rather a kind of game of cat and mouse almost straight out of cartoons, with spectacular smacks and falls in several of the encounters between the two characters. Although there is nothing new in the exercise of satire, and Åkerlund does not finish offering a profound reflection on the emergence of a figure like Clark in Swedish society, the story is fun and does not lose its uniqueness despite its generic anchor.
Ultimately, the famous “Stockholm syndrome” attributed to the magnetic figure of Clark Olofsson, and coined in the 1973 Norrmalmstorg robbery, is a clear empirical conclusion of the character’s impact on his time. Both his journey to Hamburg, with an orgiastic and absurd night filmed as a psychedelic video clip, and his subsequent landing in Beirut, the so-called “Paris of the East”, where his mockery of the law becomes exemplary (here there are points in common with the miniseries The snake and Charles Sobhraj’s itinerary on the hippie trail of Asia, albeit clearly in a different tone), expose Clark’s own view of himself, and the very stuff of fame that has made him who he is.