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State of Happiness: BBC Four acquires Norwegian drama

Updated 15-05-19 | 08:00 AM | Staff Reporter

Reading time: 2 mins

BBC Four has acquired Norwegian drama State Of Happiness from DR International Sales.

The eight-part series, which won Best Screenplay at Cannes Series Festival, follows the story of a small town and how it changed after the International oil company, Phillips Petroleum, struck gold.

It’s the summer of 1969 in the small coastal town of Stavanger, Northern Europe. Stavanger lives off fish, and the North Sea is emptying out. No more cod, no more herring. Something has to happen. The town is in crisis; International oil companies have been test drilling for years, but nothing has been found and they are in the process of leaving. Phillips Petroleum, however, are contracted to drill a final hole.

The night before Christmas 1969, the gas flare at the Ocean Viking is lit. Phillips has found the largest sub-sea oil basin in history. And everything is about to change. Norway’s oil was never owned privately, the state kept it, and in 1969, Norwegians were wealthy. State Of Happiness explores how it happened, how much individuals are willing to give up for the greater good, and how much society is willing to give up for each and everyone else.

The eight episodes cover the years 1969-1972 and follow stories of four young people growing up in a country that, in a matter of a few years, will change from being a small fishing nation and European outpost, to becoming a leading oil nation.

The main characters are three teenage Norwegians, Anna Hellevik (Anne Regine Ellingsæte) Christian Nyman (Amund Harboe) and Toril Torstensen (Malene Wadel), and young American lawyer Jonathan Kay (Bart Edwards). Christian’s dad, Fredrik Nyman (Per Kjerstad), is the owner and managing director of one of the cornerstone companies of the town, Nyman shipping and cannery, Toril comes from a religious background, and Christian’s girlfriend, Anna, comes from a small farm in a remote area of the countryside. Anna starts working as a secretary at the town hall, where the important political decisions at the time are being made. Jonathan is from Texas, works for Philips Petroleum and is sent to Stavanger in the summer of 1969 to get them out of the agreement with the Norwegian state.

Sue Deeks, BBC Head of Programme Acquisition, says: “State of Happiness is a beautifully produced period drama. I am sure that BBC Four viewers will become completely engaged by the four main characters and their experiences during this fascinating period of Norwegian history.”

The series is directed by Petter Næss and Pål Jackman and the Head Writer is Mette M. Bølstad. The Producers are Synnøve Hørsdal and Ales Ree and it is produced by Maipo Film for NRK.

State of Happiness will air on BBC Four this summer.

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