Drama series:

HENRIK & susanne

by Siri Senje, Ole Christian Solbakken & Susanne Skogstad

Siri Senje

screenwriter, screenwriting researcher and project manager

Ole Christian Solbakken

screenwriter and screenwriting researcher

Susanne Skogstad

screenwriter and screenwriting researcher

An original drama series in four chapters

"I was born an artist. I could never, ever become anything else.”

The sculptor Arnold Rubek in Henrik Ibsen´s last play, When We Dead Awaken

Who was Henrik Ibsen before he gained his fame?  Today, he has the status of world celebrity and one of the world´s greatest dramatists. The drama series Born an Artist will explore the lesser known aspects of Henrik Ibsen´s life, such as his relation to his soulmate, Susannah Thoresen, and the turbulent years before he managed to build his life as a professional writer.

In his last play, When We Dead Awaken, Ibsen mercilessly confronts himself and the myth of the passionate artist: Does a life dedicated to art justify pushing all other aspects of existence aside? Do artists have a right to use people around them for a higher, artistic goal? Is the sacrifice of love for art worth it? These are questions central to Ibsen's work, and to current discourse on the ethical and aesthetic position of fiction writers.


At 20 years of age, Henrik Ibsen described in poetic form his dream of becoming "an immortal man". The line gave the title to the drama series I wrote for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in 2006. A Man Immortaldealt with the dramatist´s younger years (1835-50), above all, his struggle to break away from his family and pursue his dream. In the final scene, Henrik, 22, stands on the deck of the ship that will bring him to the capital. He has quit his secure job as an apothecary and left the girl who bore his illegitimate son. In his travel chest is his first published book. His goal is to build a new life as a writer.


What happened next?


During the “chaotic years” (1850-1867) between debut and breakthrough, Henrik Ibsen grappled with poverty, a forced labor sentence, artistic setbacks, debts, alcohol abuse and theatre bankruptcy. What forces sustained him during these16 years of struggle? How did the dramatic experiences influence his work and his inner life?What price was paid by his family and others around him? Can the myth of the struggling artist be reconsidered and challenged by the screenwriters as they re-envision Ibsen and his turbulent years? Can a screen drama give us a deeper understanding of the works, of the poet himself and of being "born an artist"?


These are among the central questions to be explored in the drama series.