What better setting for an eccentric “doctor” to experiment on shapeshifting humans, away from prying eyes, than a remote island in the Norwegian fjords? That’s the location of Netflix’s new supernatural thriller, The Innocents– specifically, in and around the town of Mo, in Hordaland, and on an unnamed island.
The show stars Guy Pearce as Dr Halvorson whose laboratory – Sanctum – plays host to his scientific testing. When the co-creator of The Innocents, Simon Duric, first saw the island, it was exactly where he’d envisioned Sanctum would be: “That’s where I’d go if I was protecting a secret. It was literally stars aligning, it was crazy.”
Fjords are the long, narrow inlets with steep sides or cliffs, created by glaciers, that line the west coast of Norway. Pearce says that filming in that part of the world was “extraordinary”. He describes a scene he shares with Sorcha Groundsell, who plays shapeshifter June: “There we were out on a ferry in the middle of these fjords amongst the mountains, and it was just absolutely spectacular. I’m a big fan of nature, it was incredible.”
The Innocents’ producer, Elaine Pyke, explains that they chose the fjords because they are at once “beautiful and strange” and the water has a “black and mirrored” effect. With visual inspiration from the film director Jeff Nichols and the movie Let the Right One In, The Innocents has a strong Scandi-noir feel to it, both dreary and dramatic in equal measure.
Beautiful as they may be, the fjords did not come without their logistical issues. The island is quite close to Bergen, which has been dubbed the wettest city in Europe as it endures 240 days of rain a year. Writer Hania Elkington remembers the rain being nothing short of “biblical” and says that by the end of shooting, “the island was like a musical festival, we were all slipping around”.
This wasn’t just tricky for the aesthetics – but for the audio, too. “On a dry day when it hasn’t rained for six hours there are no waterfalls,” explains Pearce, “it’s all quiet and you can hear. Then if it rains for an hour, you’ve got three hours of waterfalls and suddenly there’s this white noise going on in the background…
“Of course they look fantastic. We were going, ‘Look at these wonderful waterfalls!’ and the sound guys were going, ‘Yeah, it’s f***ing great.’”