Adam Berg’s debut feature, Black Crab, hits Netflix on the 18th March and the film contains one of the most exciting line-ups of stars in one movie that we’ve seen.
Alex from Nordic Watchlist got to speak to the director to discuss the movie, which is largely filmed in Sweden and set in a post-apocalyptic world, where six soldiers must transport a secret package across a frozen archipelago without being noticed. The mode of transport is mostly by skating on the ice – and we were keen to find out what it was like filming in these conditions and working with this great cast of Nordic talent in the beautiful region of northern Sweden.
Nordic Watchlist: Let’s start with how this movie came about for you – it is an adaptation of a relatively recent book by Jerker Virdborg, is that correct?
Adam Berg: Well the book is actually pretty old, it was written about 20 years ago – I guess it depends on how old you are to say how recent it is! So I would say that ever since I read the book, which was in 2002, it really resonated with me.
These themes of isolation, paranoia, mistrust, disinformation – it was also a very visual book and I am a very visual person.
Adam has an incredible background of previous work, it might be his first film but the director has won many awards for his work on a number of music videos and adverts.
AB: So when I read it I could just see these images and I could see the starkness of it all so it really spoke to me – I have ended up carrying this film for quite a long time. Then, 10 years ago I did a short film based on a short story by the author and from there we started talking about the idea of Black Crab and bringing it to life.
It took some time because trying to bring this film to life had its complications – was the world really ready to make this film?
The imagery of the soldiers skating out into the darkness is incredibly striking and beautiful to watch but one had to wonder how difficult was this all from a technical perspective?
NW: How did you approach the filming given it is predominantly on ice? Was much CGI involved?
AB: I would say a lot of the movie is shot in real – these wide shots you see of the skaters is done on real ice. It was filmed partly on Malaren which is large lake outside of Stockholm that stretches out into Sweden.
We shot a lot of the action ice skating very far up north in in a place called Jukkasjarvi – which is home to the Icehotel – so it was shot on a lake there. The ice had to be extremely thick for when we were bringing out all the equipment to shoot and that particular winter it was very warm! So we had to go very far up north to make sure we had the thick ice to be able to film on.
Of course some bits and pieces were shot in the studio too, but what you see with the skaters on the ice is all real – except when there might be any potential cracking, that would be a little too dangerous to be shooting!
We know how thick the ice can get up in Jukkasjarvi, and have visited the famous Icehotel, which is built from ice from the nearby Torne river every winter. If you visit in March and are lucky enough, you might see this ice beginning to get harvested for the following season – it is a perfect way to see how thick it can get!
NW: I want to ask about the cast – being a huge fan of actors from the Nordic region, this ensemble blew my mind.
The cast includes the likes of Noomi Rapace (Lamb), Jakob Oftebro (Magrete:Queen of the North), Dar Salim (Borgen), Erik Enge (Tigers), and Aliette Ophiem (Caliphate) – what was it like to work with such an eclectic cast?
AB: It kind of blew my mind too!
Well, I am glad you picked up on it being an eclectic cast because that was certainly something I wanted. Since I picked the book up, Sweden has changed, the world has changed, and we wanted to get a feeling of normal people who have been picked to do this mission because they could skate. They are not elite soldiers, they are not the best of the best, they can skate and that’s why they have been selected.
I met with Noomi through Mattias Montrero, one of the producers of Black Crab, and when she stepped on board it obviously made it feel a lot more realistic and that this was going to be happen. She knows a lot of people and was definitely instrumental in finding them of them.
We started putting together each role and I was writing with another guy called Pelle Rådström – when we got the cast we were able to adapt the script and roles to fit that particular person. It made it very organic and helped it all grow.
You are totally right and I agree with you, I was totally blown away by the ensemble we were lucky enough to get.
NW: One particular actor who we were really impressed by was Erik Enge, who is from the upcoming film Tigers. We thought he put in a great performance, especially when he is so much younger than the rest of the cast.
AB: He is really interesting because he is so young and innocent but at the same time he feels quite old and experienced – which is a really interesting mix for him and that persona that he carries himself with. He was an absolute joy to work with – all of them were to be fair!
NW: How did the cast get on with the ice skating side – and in fact, were the crew also having to be trained up on the ice skating skills? Was there a boot camp set up for them?
AB: There was a boot camp for all the actors – some of them had skating experience, like Erik and Jakob who were very good, and then others all trained quite a lot.
We were gearing up for this film all during Covid and what happened was we were getting close to shooting, the actors were really ramping up their skating training, and then suddenly Stockholm switched off all their indoor ice rinks. So they melted all the ice and there was nowhere for them to train.
So we started to have to look for ice rinks out and about from Stockholm, plus there was the fact it was the warmest winter so there was no ice to train on out there either. It was very complicated and quite a struggle but they did a great job in the end – for the majority of them it was their first time on skates!
Despite the fact that the cast had such a struggle to get their ice skating training in, they are incredibly convincing in the film – many of its images have the team skating in different light and surroundings which is fascinating to watch and some of the movies standout moments.
AB: Have you seen the Nordic skating before? It is very specific type of style of skating?
With a background travelling across the Nordic region for 12 years, to date I have yet to get my skates on! I have always looked at Lulea in the winter and been desperate to try it out there. There was a TV series Will Smith presented which had a clip of ice skaters in Sweden testing the ice to make sure it was safe – the sounds the ice created were incredible.
AB: Its like skiing – but harder!
I think that is the thing you speak about – the sound and the ice, it sounds so otherworldly – it is a very strange and organic sound that the ice makes. It was clear very early on it with the visuals, the ice, landscapes, and the skating – the world had to be its own character in this film. You had the cast, but you also had the ice, and it is dangerous.
It is like an organism on its own – like what Shackleton had faced!
There’s no doubt that the team given this secret mission in Black Crab have more than one enemy when it comes to the ice!
You can watch Black Crab when it comes to Netflix from the 18th March
If you are interested in heading up to visit northern Sweden and the Icehotel, and even try skating on the ice there – head over to www.offthemap.travel to see trips which can be organised!
Interview by Alex Minnis