Clark: The True Story of the Charismatic Thief Who Inspired Stockholm Syndrome

Clark: The True Story of the Charismatic Thief Who Inspired Stockholm Syndrome

This note contains spoilers for the series. Clark.

Thanks to the authors like Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankelamong the best known, and the films and series that have been made on their stories, Sweden shot the world a gritty fire of Detective novelsnot exempt from interesting content on society and news from the Nordic country.

And it was there too, in Sweden, where the expression was coined in the seventies stockholm syndromeused since to describe, in the event of kidnapping or hostage-taking, the irrational affection of the victims towards those who have them in their power.

Behind this phenomenon lies Clark Olofsona criminal who starred in the hostage crisis that gave the syndrome its name, and whose life has made its way to streaming with a miniseries from Swedish director Jonas Akerlund, which distills the character’s biography into a plot crime comedy with dramatic overtones.

The Netflix mini-series that bears his name, clark, imbues the popularity and curiosity it arouses stockholm syndrome, the alienated and unconditional defense of the victim against the author, despite being submissive to his will and with life hanging by a thread. Or, perhaps, precisely because of this.

Bill Skarsgard, the actor who plays Olofsson, was blown away when he started learning about the notorious mobster’s lifenetflix

But the plot of clark go further. It takes up all of Olofsson’s criminal career, his run-ins with the police, his comings and goings in prison, his unbridled passion for banks and women. And, as a recurring motif, the weapons he used, which were not firearms: his natural charm, his style and his seductiveness, his plans on the fly, his fluency with words, intrigue and the conviction.

bill skarsgard, The actor who plays Clark said in an interview that when the character was offered to him, the first thing he did was go to Wikipedia to see who he was and he was stunned. “How can a person have been involved in so many things in his life? – he wondered – It’s one thing after another, and again, and again, and some of these things are historical moments. Like Stockholm Syndrome, which is obviously something everyone knows what it is, and of course he helped invent it.”

The series is inspired by the autobiography Clark Olofsson What the hell happened?, whose director retained the first person. Thus was born the portrait of a thief more interested in fame than money, who won and lost friends, girlfriends and tickets with astonishing ease; a charismatic, introspective and authoritative young man, focused on himself and his immediate needs, with the next girl or the next flight in sight.

The opening credits humorously state that the series “is based on truth and lies”. And what we know between these truths, for example, is that Clark had a difficult childhood, with a father who abandoned the family at the age of eleven and a mother who had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The series recounts this reality with flashback scenes, in black and white, which contrast with the satirical, colorful and dizzying tone of the plot.

It is also known that Clark began his criminal career at a very young age and that at the age of 18 he broke into the Prime Minister’s summer residence with a gang of friends, for reasons which are not entirely clear. Tagus Erlander. In one scene, Clark challenges the head of government to shoot “who will be the most notorious gangster in the land”.

And, of course, there is the central incident in his life and career, when he was already well known in Swedish public opinion for his outlaw escapades: the hostage taking of the bank where the famous syndrome was born. The term entered criminology textbooks and has since been taught as part of the curriculum for specialized courses on hostage taking and negotiating with kidnappers.

The original Clark, still between the police and the media
The original Clark, still between the police and the mediaArchive

It was August 23, 1973. Clark was 26 and having one of his usual stints in prison, as he recounts in the series, when the police sent him on an urgent mission. The task was linked to the Kreditbanken branch in Norrmalmstorg in central Stockholm. Jan-Erik Olsson, another criminal and admirer of Clark, whom he had known since prison, had taken four hostages and demanded their presence. The police took advantage of the request and asked Clark to convince the attacker to turn himself in.

It was the first time he hadn’t been sent to prison, but rather released, a strange feeling that he seemed to enjoy to the fullest, like anything that made him feel good. And it was also, perhaps, the first time that Clark, an inveterate criminal, fond of boxes and safes, entered a bank without intending to empty it. Although, according to the Netflix version, the sacred fire of money-making also vibrated in his eyes.

A criminal in the end, Clark didn’t know how, couldn’t or wouldn’t convince Olsson to turn himself in. After four or five days of confinement, while negotiations between negotiators and criminals continued, the four captives already seemed to be “on the side of the attackers”as one of the agents in charge of the siege sadly recounted on television, a high-profile incident that captured the imagination of society.

The hostages and the kidnappers were locked up for several days in the bank vault
The hostages and the kidnappers were locked up for several days in the bank vaultArchive

Kristin Ehnmarckwho worked as a stenographer at the bank, developed such an affinity with criminals that she communicated directly with then Prime Minister Olof Palme. He spoke warmly of his captors, saying he trusted them more than the police. After his release, the hostages continued to defend their captors, demanding their release and refusing to testify against them. All the negotiators in the world have had to learn to deal with this double barrier, that of the criminals and that of their new allies.

“In a hostage situation, you have three cases. The moment of the shot, which is always very violent; captivity, which is usually a more stable phase, and the end, which becomes more complicated again”said THE NATION oldest retiree Miguel Sileoknown for negotiating the release of 23 people from the so-called “Theft of the Century”, the seizure of the Acassuso branch of Banco Río in 2006.

“The first and the last are the most risky, because in captivity anxiety levels are lowered and in the third any action can be misinterpreted and end in the worst possible way”, added Sileo, who facilitated the release of 168 hostages during his career.

Clark's criminal career (here in his TV version) has been followed by public opinion like that of a celebrity
Clark’s criminal career (here in his TV version) has been followed by public opinion like that of a celebritynetflix

It is in this intermediate phase, where the kidnappers wait for the police to respond to their demands, where the syndrome begins to develop. For good reason, the hostages only ask to be free: the delays in the negotiation, the procrastination, the possible lack of progress, turn the anger towards the police, to complicate the plans of the criminals instead of letting them go. draw.

Moreover, as psychologist Jan Agrell says in a passage from the series, taken from a television interview from the time of the Kreditbanken seizure, “A bond was created between them; it is obvious that the hostages find a kind of safety in the bank robbers. This is understandable, because they are the ones who have the weapons. That’s why that’s where they look for safety.”

Clark’s life, like the episodes of the series, still has a long way to go after the attack that marked both his personal history and global criminology. As usual, Clark leads a free and wild life, then returns to theft (or drug trafficking) and returns to prison, in an endless cycle that corresponds to his personality, formatted in pleasure to the limit. and always outside the law.

“It was time to go back to the hotel and rest. Sometimes you have to let them catch you to start over. You will never be truly free if you are not locked up once in a while. You understand me”says Clark in the voiceover with which he tells his adventures to the public.

the adventures of clark olofsson, 73 years old today and that he circulated in Europe, sailed in the Mediterranean and lived in Lebanon, they did not take him to Argentina. But the series’ soundtrack, with an accurate and amusing selection to portray the sixties, seventies and eighties, delivers an unexpected pearl in its first chapter: “Happiness”, by Palito Ortega, sung in Swedish translation. Like the rest of the songs, this one underscores the festive, lighthearted and carefree style with which Clark approached his life.

“Based on Real Events” is a series of notes that describes the historical context behind international fictions. In this link you can access all the articles.

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