Blue Eyes: Political intrigue in Sweden

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Nobody ever thought Sweden would become right wing. Not the haven of neutrality, meatballs and rotten fish. But alas it has and, with the Sweden Democrats polling at around 20%, Sweden needs to come to terms with the way it views and presents itself. This crisis is not unfamiliar, and it is one many European countries have undergone in recent years, with Britain being next in line, with the referendum and potential Brexit looming ever closer.

The topical Blue Eyes follows a young woman, Elin (Louise Peterhoff), who returns to work at the Ministry of Justice during an election campaign and finds her predecessor has gone missing. Meanwhile, a far-Right politician is murdered. An intense and perhaps confusing start for those with no knowledge of Sweden and its political environment, the show still provides a window into one of the most insular European countries. An uncomfortable watch, it does flag up a hotly debated European issue: are we under threat from immigrants? One can only imagine how this was received. Depicting human aspects of a racist political party or creating dramatised villains provokes criticism, but so does depicting them in a way that is all too familiar for those acquainted with the popular Swedish Democrats.

The acting is superb, particularly Annika Nilsson (Anna Bjelkerud), grandmother, careworker and local representative of the far-right Security Party. The portrayal of genuine concern for the working class makes her performance unnervingly relatable. The elements of a generational conflict are convincingly used, with the anxiety over the previous generations’ conservatism and racism coming into conflict with familial ties. In the political sphere, Elin is incredibly driven, and is evidently about to set out on a private investigation into political machinations. Hopefully, this does not boil down to something predictable and formulaic. But so far, it appears no party is clean in this political mess.

We’ve spent so long aspiring to be Sweden, building them up (as indeed they have built themselves up), that it is time to address the issues. How can Europe attain integration and multiculturalism if it doesn’t know how to approach these ideas or who to emulate? In truth, these are issues all countries need to face head-on, dropping their pretension and any ideas they may have of being above it. Sweden has had a long history of conflict with migrants and indigenous minorities, such as the Saami and the Jews. Having spent time in Sweden, I can attest that it is a friendly place, but one with its barriers. Swedes are all too willing to be tolerant and embrace multiculturalism, but as long as it’s on their own terms. The unspoken attitude of Europe towards racism is as strong there as anywhere else: if we don’t speak about the problem, it doesn’t exist.

Perhaps a little slow to start, the first episode dramatically picks up, ticking all the political drama boxes and combining it with anxiety about the domestic space. What really sets Blue Eyes apart is its level of sophistication, refusing to make it a clear-cut issue. This is not tackling simply a Swedish problem. This is a current and global problem, and hopefully the rest of the series does it justice.

 

Anastasia Kennedy

 

Image courtesy of www.esquire.co.uk.

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