Clark on Netflix Is A Bold Exploration Of The Allures And Pitfalls Of Charm

The infamous Clark Olofsson is brilliantly portrayed by Bill Skarsgård in this limited series
Clark on Netflix Is A Bold Exploration Of The Allures And Pitfalls Of Charm

I have been suspicious of people who may be described as 'charming' for almost the entirety of my adult life. Experience has taught me that such people are often the most inconsiderate and that the charm is a way of covering up this inadequacy. I found this belief to be validated through the Netflix limited series, Clark, which tells the story of Clark Olofsson, the man who is today most infamous for his involvement in the Norrmalmstorg bank robbery that sparked the term 'Stockholm Syndrome'. Olofsson was the man who, over a course of six days, supposedly charmed four hostages into defending his actions and publicly criticising the police (and even the Swedish Prime Minister!).

The show works like charm itself does. It lures you in so well that you dive into the narrative at full speed from the first shot of the first episode. And when that episode ends, you hit 'Next Episode' as quickly as you can, because you are completely immersed now; you need more Clark. Every time he pulls off something outrageous — like courting (and conning) a mother-daughter duo at the same time — you gasp in shock, but you also giggle indulgently, because this man is simply too fascinating to let out of your sight.

Olofsson is shown to have sashayed through his youth — stealing when he felt like it, wooing women when the mood overtook him, leaving loved ones in precarious situations when they were done being useful to him — without thinking of the consequences of his actions. His insistence on living in the moment is like a fashionable, feather-light scarf that the people around him do not hesitate to wear and flaunt. But with time, the scarf turns into a snake that tightens itself around their necks, leaving them unsure about how to loosen its grip without killing the snake.

A little more than halfway into the show, the veneer begins to fade — even for the viewer — and the picture underneath is not pretty. After bingeing the first four (of six) episodes on the same day, I took almost two days to watch episode five. Not because the show was not doing a good job of telling a story, but the opposite. It was only too successful in saying what it needed to say: that there is only so much delicious seduction one can endure; that too much rich, greasy food can give you a stomach ache and eventually make you yearn for some bland gruel.

Bill Skarsgård is exceptional as Olofsson. He lives the character so truly and deeply that it is now strange to look at pictures of the real Olofsson, as if he were the actor and Skarsgård, the real deal. Kolbjörn Skarsgård puts forth a moving performance as a young Clark in scenes from a disturbed childhood, that is unravelled slowly and carefully through the six episodes of the show.

Clark makes bold narrative choices. The aspect ratio and picture quality change when it wants you to think you are watching a TV news report from the 1970s, before suddenly reverting to 9:16 digital clarity. At the end of one episode, an incarcerated Olofsson breaks into a music video for a Swedish cover of Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock. A live-action verbal disagreement turns into an animated physical-fight sequence between cartoon versions of the characters. But these choices never seem odd. In fact, they make perfect sense in the telling of a story of a man as impulsive and whimsical as Clark Olofsson.

Following the many, many colourful incidents of such a life on screen, one cannot help but wonder how much of the series happened exactly the same way in real life and how much was a result of creative liberty. The show doesn't make claims of frame-by-frame authenticity either, for every episode begins with the disclaimer that the series is based on truths and lies, which, if you think about it, is much like the stuff that comes out of a habitual charmer's mouth.

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