‘Acquitted’ – Walter Presents

It’s been a long while since I started a new Scandi thriller. I’ve been struggling with some pretty serious health problems. Turns out concentrating on anything when you’re really ill is extremely bloody difficult. I guess it’s why mindless daytime tv does so well. And concentrating on high-quality drama with subtitles is completely out of the question. My top tip for sickies is fairly short YouTube content, but avoid ones that make you laugh too hard, so you don’t bust any stitches, or ones about eating nasty things, so you don’t start puking again.

But the wonderful Walter Presents peaked my interest in Norwegian drama series Acquitted. Aksel Nilsen is a very successful Kuala Lumpur based businessman who returns home to little Lifjord after 20 years away to finally confront his unhappy past. Aksel is pouty and good looking, extremely well-groomed and manicured to a shine. In his beautiful bespoke suits he looks like a Ken doll crossed with a perfume advert (pour homme, pour femme, pour Norway). He’s done alright for himself in KL, with a corner office, a beautiful successful wife and a bolshy teenage son. His colleagues all have perfect English spoken in English accents; Nicolai Cleve Broch as Aksel does very well, but it’s his swearing that lets him down. He gets a call for help from Lifjord’s major employer, drops everything and chases off to the other side of the globe to try and save the town.

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‘Midnight Sun’

If you trust my recommendations dear reader, stop reading right now and just watch this. If you need a little more convincing, read on. It’s only March and Midnight Sun has quite possibly staked the claim for most gripping episode 1 of a drama series this year. It’s an hour of tv that’s up there with The Killing and The Bridge. All the praise to Sky Atlantic for serving up this slice of stunning high-end noir. My only criticism is they’re portioning it out into weekly helpings, and I can’t bosh the lot in a weekend. Because I very definitely would.

This is a French-Swedish coproduction (yes, it has the Canal+ mark of quality) which follows Kahina Zadi (Leila Bekhti), a French police officer, as she heads to a small mining community in remote northern Sweden to lead an investigation into the spectacularly grisly murder of a French citizen. Her Swedish sidekick is local DA Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten) and his rather more jaded boss Rutgar (Peter Stormare). Even with just a few minutes under the belt we can see that all of these characters are fully fledged with their own particular quirks and histories just beginning to be hinted at.

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‘Modus’

Modus is familiar even before it begins. It’s an eight part Swedish crime drama shown on BBC4 in the Saturday 9pm slot usually reserved for foreign langauge drama. The credits are familiar again – a nod to the skyline of The Bridge and the grizzly but striking black and white body parts of Trapped. It’s a new tradition that dramas especially must have stylish opening credits, extra points for slow motion and an air of chilly bleakness.

So this is Christmas, in a snow-covered pine forest. A delightful Christmas card scene but it’s cold, lonely and frightening. Euro horror merchants the Brothers Grimm taught us from an early age that monsters live in the forest and they were right. In this case, in a caravan.

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Dead Pixel Test Live! – The Bridge to Hinterland

Another tv treat from the Birmingham Literature Festival  this year was Hans Rosenfeldt and Ed Thomas in conversation. The men may not have household names, but you’ll certainly know their work. Hans is the leader writer and creator of international mega-hit The Bridge and Ed writes the sparse and beautiful Hinterland set in Wales. Both shows are available for a cosy night in on Netflix. The guys were on the programme as a duo because they both write about murders and cops in a distinctly unusual bilingual fashion. The interviewer from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain skillfully weaved their experiences together, but for ease of reading I’ve pulled them apart again, with a bit of chat about similarities and differences to act as *ahem* a bridge between the two…

The Bridge – Hans Rosenfeldt

Hans is a big lumberjack type who looks super comfortable in front of the audience. I’m sure he’s well versed in talking about Saga, Martin and The Bridge. He starts by telling us a little about the writing process – 70% of the episodes he writes alone in Swedish. The scripts are translated after the third draft by a ‘proper’ translator and then one writer makes it sound “less translated” and turns it into ‘improper’ spoken Danish. He says despite Swedish and Danish sounding pretty close to our English ears “we made up the fact that we understand each other”. He says not understanding would have given them big problems with tense scenes like interrogations. So, despite appearances, it’s all false and Swedes especially have trouble with Danish. He says he’s not massively happy with the subtitles on Netflix as they are not always correct and English-speaking audiences are losing a little in translation.

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‘Dicte: Crime Reporter’ – On the Box

Another slice of Danish pastry from Walter Presents project on Channel 4. Strong female lead – check. Horrific crimes – check. Beautiful Scandinavian interiors that’ll make your house look dingy in comparison – check. You may think you’ve already got the measure of Dicte – Crime Reporter but this one is a bit left-field for Nordic Noir fans and subverts our expectations.

The Guardian suggest this series will be yet more “grey dramas about the exhausted life of a crime-solving woman” but this isn’t the case. Yes, the subject matter is very dark (people trafficking, illegal immigration, selling babies, dead babies, religious fanaticism, illegal organ trafficking – you name it, it’s all awful) but deftly handled with the themes of the crimes echoing through the lives of the lovable main characters. Sure, this show shares some of its make-up with The Killing, but also, surprisingly Sex and the City. And the theme tune is just so peppy and cheerful!

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‘Marcella’ – On the Box

ITV has had a bit of a coup with the new London noir drama series Marcella. Written by Hans Rosenfeldt, the Swedish guy behind The Bridge which was such a success for BBC4, you’d think that naturally this would go to the Beeb. But no – it starts on ITV tomorrow night (Monday 4th April at 9pm).

I think it’s clear that ITV have been inspired by recent Scandi noir successes (The Bridge, The Killing etc) and by the revitalised UK detective dramas that have been must-watch tv – Happy Valley and Luther. The bucolic Midsummer Murders is done. Professor Plum in the dining room with the candlestick didn’t do it. It’s all gotten rather gritty, which is no bad thing. But can this writer shift his focus to London, or will the whole thing be lost in translation?

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‘Trapped’ – On the Box

A cold and bitter welcome to my new Saturday night drama obsession, in the coveted Euro drama slot on BBC4. This is Trapped, a murder mystery, police procedural type-drama: the first Icelandic drama on British tv – dark, cold and wintery. There’s been a gruesome murder, Andri the local cop with serious family problems has to save the day and a terrifying storm is setting in.

From the start the weather looks authentic – not a single flake of fake snow. I genuinely wondered if the producers had waited for a real storm to begin filming. But commenters on the internet who live quite a bit further north than me have pointed out it looks like summer with the characters running around with no hats on. A tell-tale giveaway, if you know what you’re looking for.

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