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‘The Unknown Soldier’ Team Prepares for ‘Conflict’ With Unknown Enemy That Puts Finland Under Military Threat: ‘It’s More Current Than Ever’


Aku Louhimies and Andrei Alén are readying for “Conflict.”

In the political and military thriller, created by both, and produced by Backmann & Hoderoff – with Keshet International handling distribution rights – Finland is invaded by mercenaries, hoping to provoke a wider conflict in Europe.

“We started planning this show many years ago. We used to say it’s a scenario that would never happen. It would never be a part of our life. Now, it’s more current than ever, but it’s still fiction,” Louhimies tells Variety.

Although Finland continues to face Russian threat, in the show, the adversary remains mysterious.

“It’s hybrid warfare: you don’t know who the enemy is, you don’t know what they are aiming for. How can we stop them without endangering civilians? That’s a key part of the story,” explains Alén.

“It’s about the fog of war, false information. It makes it more interesting and more universal. We don’t play into the enemy’s point of view at any stage, instead focusing on the perspective of the president or captain who is looking for his family. It’s all about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.”

Previously, the duo teamed up on Louhimies-directed local smash “The Unknown Soldier,” with Alén taking on acting duties, “The Wait” and “The Unhanged.”

Courtesy of Backmann & Hoderoff/Jonas Lundqvist

As a military unit of conscripts completes its training on Midsummer’s Eve, the invasion begins. With foreign nationals amongst the people held hostage, the newly elected president (Sara Soulié) is expected to take action.

“She is really the biggest boss of them all. It was interesting to portray a person my age [who learns how to deal] with such power and respect, and tries to balance the personal and the professional during these extremely intense days,” says the actor.

“It didn’t feel unreal to step into these shoes. We’ve had several examples of females in leading political positions, also here in Finland. There are many men who would like to tell her what to do, but she is finding her own way out of the conflict. She becomes really tough.”

Although comparisons to former Prime Minister Sanna Marin – confirmed by the parliament at the age of 34 – seem inevitable, Louhimies was more interested in “the generational gap.”

“We wanted to show a young leader, surrounded by older people telling her how things should work. This alone creates interesting drama. We chose Sara because she was the best. The fact that she resembles the former PM is a coincidence.”

Alén adds: “Sanna Marin happened after we wrote the first version of the script, but we are looking at it all through a realistic lens. If she would enter the presidential race [which concluded on Feb. 11 with Alexander Stubb claiming victory] things could be different.”

Despite timely references, “Conflict” promises to be an action spectacle first.

“Action-wise, this is pretty big. Bigger than ‘The Unknown Soldier,’” promises Louhimies.

“We decided: ‘If there is a problem, let’s not try to save money. Let’s spend even more!’ Let’s make it bigger and better. There is so much content right now, so it needs to be special. Otherwise, you won’t stand out.”

He calls action sequences in the show “realistic and respectful.”

“In Finland, we have compulsory military service. I know how to handle a gun myself and I didn’t want it to feel like a toy. Still, it’s not gory and we don’t do slow-motion: it’s not action for the sake of action.”

“Respectful is a good word, because the idea was to be there with these characters. Aku has done action sequences before, but these are the biggest of his career. I don’t think anyone has done anything like this in Northern Europe,” adds his collaborator.

The goal was to deliver a “global” show.

“We are looking for an international audience. This season is set in Finland, but the next will move somewhere else,” Louhimies says. The six-episode show, with half of it shot in English, has a three-season story arc.

“I really enjoy acting in different languages. Having a multicultural background, I feel very much at home in productions where different nationalities meet,” says Soulié, recently seen in “Hammarskjöld – Fight for Peace” and “The Final Race.” In the show, she is joined by Peter Franzén (“Vikings”), Dylan Smith, Nadia Forde and Larry Lamb.

“This story felt very possible after Russia’s latest attack on Ukraine. In Finland, we’re neighboring with the attacker and have our own history with them. It was intriguing – and scary – to learn how our political system and defense forces would operate in such conflict,” she adds.

Fighting for survival against an unknown opponent might be even scarier.

“That’s what we are hoping for,” says Louhimies.