Nightshift is brilliant, in my humble opinion, i hear the States is going to do a remake of it set in Louisiana. Whilst it’s a shame for them to miss out on the original and hearing spoken Icelandic which was fascinating to me and wonderful to hear i reckon they can carry it off. After all they remade anew The Office and that works.
Myself i haven’t watched The Office or The US Office much except for a brief and painful glimpse of Stringer Bell recently appearing in it. It all seemed so wrong. Don’t they know, that he’s Stringer Bell and or the inimitable Luther, he can’t be dead-panning doing comedy? Plus Stringer, or his proper name Idris Elba, seemed to be about ten feet tall compared to the rest of them, making the Office look like a doll’s house somehow.
Anyway, i digress, the Primary characters in The Nightshift are Gregor, the big bad bullying boss as previously described. Then Olafur his main victim and new arrival, young Daniel, new boy. Then there is the mysterious bubble gum girl or the girl in the booth. I say that since she is never named that i was aware of.
I am particularly fond of descriptions of sound seen in subtitles. (there may be a proper name for it) The bubblegum girl obviously chews bubble gum and blows bubbles and is forever ensconced in Nightshift in a booth at some indeterminate distance from the petrol station. For her the subtitles said in brackets: (bubble gum pops) brilliant!.
The secondary characters are Barnfrouer (apologies to any Icelanders if i have spelt that wrong) the name for Gregor’s fierce some mother. That word might just mean mother or grandmother. Then there is Daniel’s girlfriend a blond goddess wearing a stewardess uniform.. We are quite amazed to see her as Daniel at first is such a quiet shy soul and looks dreadfully young. Yet he has a truly knock out girlfriend.
Then there is Olafur’s cousins who arrive randomly at the petrol station. We as the viewers are quite glad to see them as they often stick up for poor bullied and terminally harried Olafur. They also serve to confirm some of his stories that hitherto we may not have been sure were true..Olafur’s cousin Olaf is from Olafur’s band which i wasn’t sure existed. Olaf arrives in a giant yellow limousine like nothing i have ever seen.
Olafur is offered a lift in said yellow apparition, about a mile long, full of giggling girls in a party mood. Olaf invites Olafur to join them and broken heartedly Olafur has to turn him down. Just like the wonderful chance of the X factor audition Olafur knows he won’t be allowed. Gutted he watches this once in a lifetime chance drive away into the night, full of partying people..
Then there is Brigitte, Olafur’s cousin a beautiful and famous singer seen pictured in a magazine by Olafur and Daniel. Olafur is very proud when Daniel points out a picture of Olafur in the background of this show biz photograph. Yes, he boasts, i party with them all and he claims to have been with the fair Brigitte “three times!”. However he neglects to mention that they are related..
When Brigitte appears in the petrol station and greets Olafur as her cousin, Gregor goes into full scale bellowing mode and repeats Olafur’s scurrilous gossip, shouting at the silent and shocked Brigitte:
“it’s incest, incest”!
You see Gregor has a habit of turning on the hapless innocent customers and being outrageously and shockingly insulting to them. He calls a Liberal party candidate whom he recognises the “Prince Of Darkness” just for starters before launching into a scathing and verbally eviscerating attack.
After reading that the actor who plays Gregor is actully the real Mayor of Reyjavik i reckon this scene must be an ‘in joke’ relevant to Icelandic politics.
Other secondary characters are Daniel’s parents who are overbearing and turn up to harass Daniel for dropping out of medical school. Daniel cries as they berate him and declaim how worried they are about him:”how can you mother concentrate on her ceramics?”
Then there is Gregor’s son, Flemming who is called other names in Icelandic, which might mean son& grandson. There is the Police who Gregor likes to call, most importantly, at the drop of a hat. There is the man with the stroke, the Japanese lady with the cans& The Japanese lady’s husband..
There is a customer from Gregor’s childhood who we find out bullied Gregor.(Which might explain a lot). There is the man with the fast car that Olafur chats to when he is off his head on mysterious Chinese ‘body building’ milkshakes..
The bubblegum girl in the booth is beautiful, dark of hair, with eyes like the bluest deepest see through sea. She says very little. Olafur has regular forays to her booth and obviously has a crush on her however has no winning female chat up lines or idea of how to talk to her. He freezes up into staccato sentences like a tongue tied schoolboy every time he tries.
The bubblegum girl seems to like and get on with Daniel. Quiet Daniel who we discover very early on has hyperventilating panic attacks in secret in the toilet. We realise that he has left University in some sort of fugue and maybe in the throes of a nervous breakdown.
When the bubblegum girl, from her vantage point outside, sees Daniel’s stunning girlfriend break up with him over leaving Uni and working in a petrol station she tells him:”i understand you very well” and tells him how she broke up with her boyfriend since “he always wanted me to do the things he wanted and i couldn’t have that”.
Slowly we see Daniel rise up from his hunched shoulders, silent misery and panic to sticking up for Olafur over Gregor’s harassment:
“It’s not just the money, it’s psychological violence” he tells Olafur:
“In the time I’ve been here he’s stolen thousands of Kroner of you”!
nb. We also see early on that Gregor is down on non-Icelandic names. Things get a little darker about the whole ‘foreign’ thing later as it turns out Gregor is a racist. I won’t give away the details. It’s hard to assimilate since you’re kind of getting to like Gregor. However evil and slightly insane he appears to be he has shown several strangled efforts at sympathy.
At the end of a seemingly 24/7 bullying sessions of Olafur by Gregor he painfully pats Olafur on the shoulder. Whilst Olafur is hanging out in his beloved blue truck in the service centre.
On reflection i wonder if Gregor’s behaviour with the Japanese Lady
may also derive from his over riding obsession with collecting cans for the money so he can go away on holiday in Sweden..
By the end of Nightshift we have seen Daniel become stronger, stand up straighter, stop Gregor deducting thousands of Kroners from Olafur and have a shouting match with Gregor. He also starts to use his diagnostic skills when Olafur starts exhibiting some very odd physical signs arising form his Chinese milkshakes in what is surely the funniest scene i have seen on TV for a very long time..
nb. The women in Nightshift are all incredibly goddess like, strong and fiery. Completely terrifying the men who cower quite quickly when they appear. These strong characters chime with what i learnt about Iceland and the Laxedale sagas from the Icelandic series on BBC4. The Laxedale saga tells of a lady who sailed to Iceland all the way from Scotland with 100 men, to settle there, 1,000 years ago. The Icelanders in that BBC4 series, like in Nightshift, talked in a lovely verse like direct way.