In 1973, a fella named Jan-Erik Olsson took hostages during a botched bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. Trapped, he negotiated with police and asked that one Clark Olofsson, who was in prison, be brought to the bank. Police delivered Olofsson, who spent several days with the robber and hostages. When the situation finally ended, some hostages expressed sympathy and admiration of the two criminals. This became known as Stockholm syndrome.
There was a reason the robber wanted Clark Olofsson at the scene. He was the most famous criminal in Sweden, a celebrity gangster and famously charming.
Clark (streams on Netflix) is a miniseries about him and it’s as crazy as the main character’s life. At times buoyant and bewildering, it can be wildly uneven but never lets up on the pace and is, essentially, one long chase. Olofsson (played by Bill Skarsgard) spent most of his life on the run and, according to him, he loved the adrenalin and adventure of being a step ahead of the police. This is, mind you, his version of things. Each episode – six, mostly in Swedish with English subtitles – opens with a declaration that it’s filled with both truth and lies.
It makes for a good, often unsettling, binge-watch, a journey into the mind and escapades of a scoundrel you are just a shade shy of admiring. He’s awful: A liar and seducer, a narcissist and a sociopath. At times, his childhood, with a violent, alcoholic father and a mother with mental health issues, is presented as the root of his criminal behaviour, but you’re never sure where the truth resides.
It’s very Scandinavian in its tone and style, a sex-farce, and the Sweden of the 1960s and 1970s is presented as a bright, sunny era of innocence and small rebellions against conformity, with Clark Olofsson the very opposite of conformity. Skarsgard gives a remarkable performance, relaying the charm and cunning of a rascal turned self-regarding monster. There are many sex scenes and the main character’s casual abandonment of many women being an overriding theme. There is a strangeness to the miniseries that can be hard to define, and then you realize what’s happening – everything is seen from Olofsson’s perspective and he’s either just shouting at you or seducing you. Trapped with him, your perspective becomes a possible instance of Stockholm syndrome.
There’s fun in it for sure. Olofsson’s boasts are outrageous. “I’ve broken out of prison 17 times and that’s probably a world record,” he declares in the voice-over, and you know it’s a lie. “I never get depressed, I don’t hate anyone,” he tells the prison psychiatrist. He’s seducing her and the number of women he captivates becomes what you know is absurd bragging.
These days, there’s skepticism about Stockholm syndrome. Those who allegedly sympathized with the criminals in that bank were women and there’s sexism implied in the notion of the syndrome. One of those women has poured scorn on the very idea she was seduced. Which makes the miniseries, a production not to everyone’s taste, even more cunningly subversive.
Also airing/streaming this weekend
Blown Away (streams on Netflix) is back with new episodes. The Canadian-made reality competition is a cult hit, and even mildly controversial. Glass artists gather in a “hot shop” to create their work, usually to fit a theme set out by the judges. They sweat, they get a little nervous and emerge as distinct characters. It’s a bewitching watch, filled with ridiculous puns delivered by host Nick Uhas and with sometimes withering criticism from resident judge Katherine Gray. It’s the judging that’s drawing fire, with some viewers saying it’s too harsh.
Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth (Saturday, HBO, 8 p.m., streams on Crave) is a solid documentary about Craig Carton. He tells the story, beginning with, “My name is Craig Carton and I have lived through the most public, vicious, self-inflicted fall from grace.” Carton was the co-host (with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason) of an enormously popular radio show in New York. Made rich by his antics and bellowing, offensive take on sports, he gambled, arranged scams and ended up in jail. A study of male ego and hidden demons.
Finally, note Fake Famous (Sunday, HBO, 8 p.m., streams on Crave), is a repeat but a fascinating case study of a social media experiment. Filmmaker Nick Bilton seeks to find three unknowns and make them very famous via Instagram. It amounts to millions of fake people following fake people and sharing fake news.
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