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What happened in rural Sweden didn’t stay in rural Sweden, which is how we have the disturbing true-crime drama The Congregation.

The Congregation
The Congregation: Aliette Opheim as Eva, Alba August as Anna — Photo courtesy of Viaplay

The story told in the award-winning The Congregation (Knutby) is the one that inspired HBO’s docuseries Pray, Obey, Kill — about a shocking crime that took place in the early 2000s within a Christian sect in the small, rural town of Knutby in Sweden.

From the off, the six-episode drama gave me the heebie-jeebies, a dread that comes from anticipating bad stuff happening but not knowing how it will play out (which one is wont to do during a psychological thriller, which The Congregation is, along with being a true-crime drama).

By the end of Episode 1, it is clear — even if one knows nothing about the story — that Sindre (Einar Bredefeldt, The Unlikely Murderer, Beartown), a pastor, is a slimy, skeevy creep of a predator; that charismatic Eva (Kristallen Best Actress award winner Aliette Opheim, Caliphate, A Class Apart) has aspirations that go way beyond being a pastor for a small but growing group of believers; and that Anna (Alba August, The Rain, Below the Surface), a naive and impressionable young woman, has absolutely no idea of what she’s getting herself into when she pulls up stakes and moves to Knutby, willingly and excitedly joining the community as a (low-paid) nanny for Sindre’s pregnant wife, Kristina (Klara Hodell, Toppen).

Almost everyone is welcoming to Anna at first, the notable exception being Kristina, who, already upset about a few not-inconsequential things with Sindre and Eva, doesn’t want Anna around. Ultimately, this won’t matter. As the story progresses, Anna falls victim to manipulation, brainwashing and fanaticism, and becomes a key member of the congregation — the one entrusted by Eva, now the Bride of Christ, with the well-being of a congregant. However, circumstances change drastically and the whole situation devolves for Anna, with the once-warm community turning their backs on her, leaving her devastated. Already in a deeply vulnerable state yet still a faithful believer, a confused but obedient Anna muddles forward. But the story doesn’t end here — not by a long shot.

Based on the book Knutby by Jonas Bonnier, The Congregation features Amy Deasismont (Gösta), Malin Persson (Riding in Darkness), Joakim Sällquist (Box 21), Jessica Liedberg (Sthlm Requiem), Nils Wetterholm (Young Royals), and Tina Pour Davoy (Live Life), amongst others.

The Congregation premieres in the US tomorrow, Thursday, May 11, exclusively on Viaplay.


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The Congregation: Disturbing Swedish True-Crime Drama Set for US Premiere
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