‘This is part of our reality, just a reality we do not see,’ says Norway’s Øystein Karlsen, writer/director of Exit. When writing the show, Karlsen had access to very candid interviews recorded with four men from Oslo’s world of high finance. Over dinner, they reveal the truth of their lives and feelings, their coping mechanisms and pursuits of drug-addled pleasure. In their world, an endless flow of money yields forth any and every desire.
‘The challenge was to get people to see a whole series where there are no heroes, no one to agree with … These people treat others as goods that you can buy and sell,’ says Karlsen.
In addition to this source material, Karlsen also interviewed other members of this exclusive world and their wives, from which he shaped the four protagonists, Adam, William, Jeppe and Henrik, as well as Adam’s wife Hermine and William’s wife Celine.
It’s a case of fact being stranger than fiction, as Karlsen estimates about 70% of the final script ended up coming straight from the interviews. One of the men admits he’s been sterilised, but hasn’t told his wife who’s under the impression they’re trying to conceive. Another staves off suicide by diving headlong into drinking and entertaining himself in a variety of ways. Karlsen admitted to having to take breaks in listening to the stories. ‘It was damn dark.’
The four men share a party house, to where they escape their daily lives and specifically, their families. None of their partners knows about this place. It’s where they bring the escorts they hire, take the expensive drugs they buy, indulge in violent and repugnant behaviour of all kinds. The men have become accustomed to buying whatever they want, treating people however they want; they bring out the worst in each other.
On release in Norway, a fifth of the country’s population saw the show. Exit has since become the most streamed series in Norway’s history. When viewers were shocked by what they saw, Karlsen responds, ‘That world is real, so you have to re-evaluate the image of your own country a little bit. We are happy to believe that nasty things happening in the rest of the world are not happening here.’
The writer/director had a brilliant cast of award-winning actors from the screen and stage to work with to bring Exit to life.
Simon J. Berger, who plays Adam, may be familiar to SBS viewers from his role in murder mystery miniseries, Modus. Agnes Kittelsen (Happy, Happy) plays Adam’s wife, Hermine. Kittelsen starred in Norwegian sitcom Dag from 2010 to 2015 where she worked with Karlsen, who co-wrote and directed.
Television, film and theatre actor Jon Øigarden plays Jeffe, Tobias Santelmann, who had a starring role in BBC TV series The Last Kingdom is Henrik, and rounding out the four men is Pål Sverre Hagen, who appeared in Valkyrien and played Thor Heyerdahl in the Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated film Kon-Tiki. Playing William’s wife is Ine Marie Wilmann, who stars in film Sonja: The White Swan (now at SBS On Demand).
As Hermine begins to discover the truth of who Adam is and what he’s up to, how far will the men end up going? What’s their exit strategy? Which way of life will they be more willing to give up?
Season 1 of Exit is available to watch at SBS On Demand now.
Ben and Fiona are back to talk 'Little Women', and 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood', both of which have been overlooked in the Best Director category of the Oscars. Fiona then interviews Marielle Heller, director of the latter, about celebrating the legacy of a childhood icon, and about the industry's bias against movies directed by women in awards season ("I guess I can't ignore how blatant this is").