I do not, by temperament or inclination, gravitate towards Scandinavian countries. I am intimidated and made uncomfortable by safe, clean, orderly places where everything works and people seem creepily content.
I’m a guy who tends to fall in love with hot, messy, barely functional places — where fiery arguments are common — and one is pleasantly surprised if one’s luggage arrives in good order — if at all. When I walk around Copenhagen, I find myself, for no good reason at all, irritated that I am not in Saigon or Rio or Naples — where one lives constantly on the edge of intensely pleasurable chaos.
So, it comes as something of a surprise that what we came back with after a week shooting in Copenhagen—in what is said to be the “happiest country on earth”—is perhaps the finest, most technically accomplished, best looking hour of television we’ve ever made. It’s just fucking….gorgeous.
It’s a show centered around one restaurant, NOMA, and one chef, Rene Redzepi. Both have been written about many times.
But no one, I don’t think, has ever shown you what we’re going to show you—or as visually.
NOMA is said to be “the best restaurant in the world” and they are famous for, among other things, sourcing almost all their ingredients from the forests, fields, farms beaches and marshes of the area immediately around Copenhagen. They have pioneered the notion of “foraging” and taken it to an extreme that would be damn easy to mock—if the results weren’t so genuinely brilliant and delicious.
You’d think wandering around scrounging for weeds and moss would be boring. But get ready.
NOMA is a very, very creative space—and Rene Redzepi encourages creativity. So, we felt we had better live up to our subject.
We started off by deciding that there would be no standard “two shots” during conversations. That the cameras would move freely, literally suspended by wire from an uncomfortable contraption called an EZ Rig—for every single shot. That we would push our cameras through spaces large and small while thinking about Terence Malick at all times.
That we would provide no “coverage” for our editor back in New York, no extra footage of entrances and exits, establishing shots, alternate takes. Subjects would fall and wander out of frame. That we would force post-production to be great—because there would be simply no alternative. That we would tell our entire story over the course of one meal—at one restaurant—cutting back and forth through time and space.
Producer Tom Vitale was heroically suicidal in the risks he took with this episode.
Cinematographers Zach Zamboni and Alan Jacobsen did amazing work. The show looks like nothing we’ve ever done before. And editor Hunter Gross took what we shot and made magic.
Needless to say, it was quite a challenge.
But what came out of that editing room is, I think, a masterpiece.