My name is Fansu Njie, a Swedish filmmaker and the founder of this film project, and I am about to tell you about the story of Senja Chronicles and how it came to life.
Based on both ancient and modern events in the north of Norway, the roots of the story come from my time living in the country. Between 2007-2010 I found myself working in neighboring Finnsnes, and writing screenplays in my spare time. Like many in Finnsnes, I would make the five minute commute over the bridge to Senja for fishing and nature, and it was here that I began hearing stories of the Vikings. It etched in my brain a picture of a heritage as mythic as the Norwegian landscape that surrounded me. An image that would stay with me long after work brought me back home to Sweden.
Six years later, in the wake of my mother’s tragic passing, lost in emotion, and desperate for some kind of meaning, my mind wandered back to these stories of Vikings. There was a simplicity to them, and the harsh beauty of their setting that seemed to call to me, and so I returned to Senja.
By the time I had booked my ticket North, I realized that I was at crucial moment, a turning point, where something had to change in my life. I couldn’t pin point it, but somewhere along the way I had lost track of my passion. Making films for myself, and telling stories had become creating corporate videos and doing work for hire. Somehow, in my grief over losing the part of myself that resided in my relationship with my mother, I became aware of other parts of me that had been silently slipping away. It was then I resolved to go back to my filmmaking roots.
I traveled light, a change of clothes in a simple back pack and a couple of cameras. I told my Norwegian friends that I wanted more. I asked them to help me dive deeper into the hidden stories of the vikings, and the majestic land they called home.
While my earlier explorations had familiarized me with Viking artifacts and traditions from the longships to rune stones, this trip offered new revelations. Upon my arrival I was almost immediately introduced to uplsope fog; an otherworldly weather phenomenon that spills down, from the surrounding mountains, shrouding the villages below. I watched in awe through my camera’s viewfinder as this ghostly mist slid over the town like a blanket.
During my stay, I learned about the region’s historical significance digging through old magazines and listening to stories in tiny rustic bars. Over beers, the locals beamed with pride recounting how the Nazis first defeat was at the hands of Norway, the children of Vikings, here in this unforgiving corner of the North. When I discovered that the Nazi’s had left behind a series of tunnels burrowing into the nearby mountains, I knew I had to see them for myself.
Armed with only protective gear and flashlights, I descended into the belly of the mountain, guided at first by a friend, and then, as I journeyed deeper, traveling alone. In the depths, the tunnels took on the atmosphere of a horror film; narrow oppressive walls, alien and almost alive emanating a malevolent cold that seemed to chill the bones; condensation dripping down from the ceiling to the howling sound of the wind whipping through the colorless corridors. Within the mountain, I had the strange sensation of being trapped in the throat of some great and terrible beast.
A few hours later, on the drive home from the tunnels, I passed a playground nestled into a flat expanse of land. From behind a crooked slatted fence, something humongous caught my eye. Overwhelming, even at a distance, it took me a few moments to make sense of what I had seen- the imposing form of a Troll, sculpted nearly 80 meters high, towering over the park and the surrounding landscape.
It was in this moment that nearly all of the disparate threads finally crystalized into what would later become Senja Chronicles.
By the time I returned to Sweden, I had a head full of ideas, and the epiphany that would tie it all together: “what if what the Vikings had thought of as trolls, was the same thing we would now call aliens?” It was a fun conceit. Blending my childhood love of science fiction with some of the striking imagery of Viking mythology felt both classic and new. Even more exciting, I could infuse the unique flavor of the region into the story by incorporating everything from the strange weather phenomenon to the German occupied tunnels. The end result was not simply a movie, but an epic story told over several movies- the tale of a secret war unfolding over centuries all but unseen in the unforgiving and magical north of Norway.
As good as my idea was, I registered early on that my point of entry needed to be focused on the human rather than the fantastic; by combining the classic “men on a mission” story with a more personal drama about an abducted child, I realized that I could introduce my Trolls in the way that any great monster is introduced; shrouded in mystery and darkness.
With the story taking shape, preparing to film my proof of concept short became an obsession. For months, I researched techniques, and compiled assets for production. My living room became a workshop, a veritable film studio with uniforms, weapons, lamps, and other gear slowly devouring my furniture and living space. I began running film tests, storyboarding and creating pre-visualizations; living and breathing every detail of this new and burgeoning world with steadfast devotion to seeing it realized.
Undertaken over an eleven month period, Senja Chronicles represents the work of myself and a few close friends, made at the cost of countless hours stolen from evenings and weekends. This introduction to a new and uniquely Scandinavian Cinematic Universe is only the beginning; a small step, a proof of concept, and ultimately, a mission statement from Njie Films as we begin work on the first chapter of our story; one populated by Vikings, Monsters and Badass Commandos fighting for family and survival.
Welcome to Senja Chronicles. This is only the beginning.
Dedicated to my beloved mother