- «Face to Face» is a Danish crime series known for its unique format, with each episode consisting of a one-on-one interrogation in the pursuit of solving a brutal murder.
- The series boasts beautiful cinematography, dedicated performances, and engaging writing that keeps viewers hooked with every twist and turn.
- Created and directed by Christoffer Boe, «Face to Face» aims to be a standalone season that can be enjoyed by new viewers, making it an easy entry point for those new to Viaplay.
Face to Face, or Forhøret, is a Danish crime series coming to the US thanks to the streaming service Viaplay. It’s a unique take on the genre that sets it completely apart from crime procedurals in the US; each episode of Face to Face is essentially a one-on-one interrogation, with its protagonist attempting to get to the bottom of a brutal murder. The eight-episode series boasts beautiful cinematography, detailed and devoted performances, and writing that keeps viewers engaged through every twist and turn. The most recent season of the show stars Lars Mikkelsen (Ahsoka) as Holger Lang.
Face to Face was created, directed, and co-written by Christoffer Boe, a prominent writer and director whose first film won the Camera d’Or at Cannes. Boe’s vision for Face to Face was of a crime show with no filler, and the series certainly cuts quickly to the heart of the matter in each episode. Boe also aimed to make Face to Face season 3—the most current season—standalone enough to welcome new viewers, so it’s an easy jumping-off point for viewers new to Viaplay.
Christoffer Boe spoke with Screen Rant about rewriting on set, the challenges of a dialogue-driven show, and more. Note: This interview was conducted during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, and the show covered here would not exist without the labor of the writers and actors in both unions. This interview has also been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Christoffer Boe On Face To Face
Screen Rant: I love the structure of this show. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I’m a fan. Where did the idea come from?
Christoffer Boe: Basically, the idea is that it’s just one very intense meeting between two characters. At a point I was doing another TV show, and whenever you do a TV show, [there is this] need to have scenes that are set up scenes for different scenes. You basically end up doing stuff that you don’t really want to do, but you have to do because it’s a setup for something further down the line. Hopefully you can do those scenes in a more elegant way, and you can do all kinds of tricks, but you still often end up in a situation where you’re actually doing stuff you would prefer not to do, but [that] you need down the line in the storyline.
I was thinking, “Could we in any way do a show where we take away all the unnecessary ornamentation and just focus [and elaborate] on what’s really great?” Which is basically the interaction and the meeting between two great characters. From there, [I thought], “It’s always nice if it’s wrapped up in some kind of mystery case.” If somebody has been killed, with the streamers and the broadcasters, that gives you a lot of headroom to do other stuff. So basically my show is about parents, and secrets, and all kinds of stuff, but you have this drive because you’re also trying to solve a mystery.
It almost feels like every episode is a play, in a way, because it’s so dialogue-driven and it’s so about the performances. Did that make it more difficult to cast than some of you other shows? I imagine the workload was crazy.
Christoffer Boe: Yeah, the way we do it is very strenuous on the actors; I think that’s also why they like it. I really had the fortune of getting access to basically all the greatest actors we have in Denmark and in Scandinavia. I really have only A-list actors in every single episode, and I think one of the reasons is that it’s so condensed that they didn’t have to take a lot of time out. It’s not like the commitment for a whole TV series, or even an ordinary episode; we could do everything in a week. We’d shoot very efficiently and [be] very concise. Also, I’ve done everything I could so it doesn’t feel like a play, doesn’t feel stale, [or] doesn’t feel like an old David Mamet movie. Even though he writes beautifully, some of those movies did feel a little tedious.
But I think one of the drivers for the actors was that it did give them a nostalgic feeling of being back on the stage. It isn’t cut up, so it has this idea of you entering a scene and you can play full out. It makes a lot of small interactions different, when you don’t cut it up into different small scenes. [For some episodes, on] the last day of shooting—because everybody knows the positions of where the dialogue takes place—we would actually do run-throughs that would be the entire episode, which would sometimes run for 30 or 35 minutes, where we would play the whole episode in one [take]. It that would be like a marathon: very exhausting, but also very fulfilling. I think that’s one of the things that drove some of the actors to say that they wanted to try this format.
I know this third season is standalone, in a way, and then each episode is so unique and so very much itself. Is there a challenge, as either a writer or director, to make sure that things don’t feel too fragmented?
Christoffer Boe: The three seasons all revolve around the same mystery, but I tried to recap the main essence of it so they’re sort of standalone seasons. It should hopefully be a little more fulfilling to see them all combined, and there are throwbacks to the old seasons. Especially in season one and two, it’s a dialogue because it’s the husband, then the wife to the death daughter.
One of the great issues is also, “How can we get the main character personally into each episode?” In an ordinary detective story, you would have a detective [who] might have some connection with the crime that needs to be solved, but mostly will be solving somebody else’s case. It’s distant from him, he will meet up with people that he doesn’t really know, and then he will be somehow entangled privately into the episode. But there’s something about this show [where], in season three, Holger is involved in these 20-minute long dialogues, [and] if he doesn’t even know the person is talking to, it doesn’t really work. He needs to be very personally engaged in the discussion. That is sort of a puzzle we need to solve in each season: “How can we get our main character to be very involved in each episode?” In different ways, of course—you can only have so many cousins, or brothers, or sisters—but he needs to be involved somehow. We do a lot of tricks so he can, in different ways, have different angles into the main suspect that he’s interrogating, or having this face-to-face meeting with.
I’ve heard some directors may focus very much on an actor’s performance, and others are very involved with what the camera is doing. Are you drawn to one or the other more?
Christoffer Boe: This is very character [and] actor driven, so there’s a lot of dialogue. The whole technicality is just making it work and talking through the dialogue. I write the final scripts with the actors in mind. Basically, I have somebody in mind when I write the first draft, but in some instances it doesn’t all work out so another actor will actually take the role. Then, [for] the final shooting script, I’ll make sure that it really works with that specific actor in mind.
There’s a lot of making sure that character work with the dialogue and the whole scenery works, but if that’s not met with some kind of visuality, especially in a series like this which is so dialogue-based, it’s also going to be very stale. So I think it’s a combination of hopefully having some great visuals and a style, but then what you’re watching is very, very good character work from the actors. Otherwise it’s, again, dead on arrival, because there’s nothing we can hide behind. We can’t cut to another scene. We can’t do all the tricks you have in usual TV series; we only have the actors. If they don’t work, it’s a huge issue.
Since it is so actor-driven and so script-driven, when you are both the director and the head writer, do you have to shut your writer brain off as you’re directing? Are you tempted to rewrite as you’re going?
Christoffer Boe: We rewrite all the time. But there’s a limit, and the limit is that the main actor has so many scripts in mind that they’d [go] insane if I rewrote too much. They can’t keep track of it, so they would say, “Cut it. I can’t have any more words in my mind.” But then sometimes you end up on set and they say, “Last night, I was just thinking about this dialogue. Maybe I could say this, and this, and this,” and they have suggestions on their own. I say, “Let’s do it. Let’s go ahead.” As long as it’s the right direction and emotionally it’s the right call, the wording can be anything. I want it to feel natural as much as possible in something that is as unnatural as Face to Face.
Was there anything this season that you felt like you were able to accomplish, that you’ve been building toward, or that you weren’t able to accomplish in the previous two?
Christoffer Boe: I think the fact that this is season three; I’ve never done something where I built on seasons. I’ve done other TV shows, but they were limited. I’ve done movies, but they were their own. [There are] new DOPs for each season and the main characters are different for each season, so a lot of people who are fresh and new and excited to be there, but I have gained some experience working with the same format now for three seasons. And I think that we were more free in this way.
If you look at season one, we were very strict about the dogmas I had put on myself for how to shoot an episode—that it should be the same location, the time should be from the get-go of the meeting, [with] no time cutting and stuff like that—and in the end, it didn’t really matter. You didn’t feel that we were cheating on the strictness of the format even though we did move a little bit more in season three from inside and outside. It expanded the scope of what could actually count as a location, and I think that it really worked for that season and made it breathe a little better.
In watching this, like I said at the beginning, it felt so unique to me, especially compared to the shows in the US that I watch all the time. If you had known Face to Face was coming first to a US-based platform, would you have done anything differently in how you structured it or wrote it?
Christoffer Boe: I don’t know; I would have made it in English, maybe. Actually, the idea for season three was to shoot it in London. Lars Mikkelsen would still have played the lead, but I would have taken him to London and he would meet up with a lot of English actors. He has a very great name, Lars Mikkelsen, and [there are] a lot of people that would have enjoyed playing with him, but for various very complicated reasons, that fell apart. We were location scouting, everything was set and I actually wrote the scripts for London, but then it fell apart. I had to very quickly figure out, “Do I want to just skip this season and throw it out, or can I somehow save it?” The only salvation I could find was that I could bring it back to Copenhagen, which I was actually very glad I did. I think that some of the meetings that he has, and the way we end the Face to Face trilogy were very satisfying to me. I’m glad that we did it.
About Face To Face
Face to Face is an award-winning interrogation drama coming to the US on Viaplay. Reimagining the genre’s possibilities with unforgettable performances and cinematography, the new standalone season of the psychological drama follows Holger Lang (Mikkelsen), head of the multi-billion company Lang Enterprises, after he receives a strange recording. Holger watches in horror how Christina, his protégé and potential heir to the company, is murdered. With each innovative episode focused on a single confrontation, Holager consumed with rage makes a desperate bid to uncover the truth behind who killed Christina – and why?
All three seasons of Face to Face are available to stream now on Viaplay.