There’s been lots of buzz recently about the new Welsh crime drama Y Gwyll / Hinterland, which debuts at 9.30pm, next Tuesday, 29th October on S4C Digital. (In case you’re wondering, S4C stands for Sianel Pedwar Cymru or ‘Channel Four Wales’, and is also available beyond Wales via satellite, cable, and online).
My ears pricked up when I heard about this Fiction Factory/S4C/BBC production, partly because I have the good fortune to live in Wales, and partly because of its strong Scandinavian connections. Pre-broadcast coverage has repeatedly emphasised the influence of crime dramas such as The Killing and Wallander on Y Gwyll, both in terms of its tone – think Scandi melancholy and bleakly beautiful landscapes – and in terms of the decision to film it in Welsh with English subtitles. It’s a gentle reminder that languages other than English are spoken in the UK, and provides a wonderful showcase for Welsh language and Welsh culture, especially that of west Wales, which has a high proportion of Welsh-speakers.
I’m sure the enormous success of the ‘subtitled homicide genre’ in the popular BBC4 Saturday crime slot played a sizable role in convincing telly execs that this fairly costly venture (£4.2 million) would prove worthwhile. The series has also been filmed in English, and will air on BBC Wales and BBC4 next year, but I’ll definitely be watching the Welsh version first, and am hugely looking forward to some quality Cymru Crime.
In a lovely twist, the series has already been sold to the Danish channel DR, which means that we’re exporting some Scandi-style subtitled drama back to Denmark. Expect to see lots of Danish tourists flocking to the seaside town of Aberystwyth soon.
Here’s a bit more about Y Gwyll from the Fiction Factory website:
> From the windswept sand dunes of the coastline to the badlands of the hinterland, Aberystwyth is the perfect setting for this brand new drama series. A place that lives by its own rules: a natural crucible of colliding worlds where history and myth meet the modern and contemporary. Into this world steps DCI TOM MATHIAS (Richard Harrington), a brilliant but troubled man. Having abandoned his life in London, he isolates himself on the outskirts of Aber – a town filled with secrets as dark and destructive as his own.
MATHIAS is partnered with DI MARED RHYS (Mali Harris). Intelligent and complex, she is a mother wiser than her 33 years suggest. Together, enigmatic outsider Mathias and hometown girl Mared form an engaging relationship.
MATHIAS is at the heart of every story. He is a man we instinctively trust, a man who knows that the key to solving the ultimate crime of murder lies not in where you look for truth, but how you look. From the windswept sand dunes of the coastline to the badlands of the hinterland, this is a detective drama with pace, poetry and scale. A series of four two-hour films with stories that are original and local, yet timeless and universal <.
You’ll also find a superbly atmospheric trailer on the series website (also on YouTube) to give you a flavour of what’s to come (in Welsh with English subtitles). The Guardian TV Guide reckons that ‘fans of washed-out noir slaughter are going to love Y Gwyll for its slow, confident pacing, attention to detail, and Harrington’s engrossing performance.’ Mwynhewch! Enjoy!
Stephen Moss at The Guardian about the making of the series and its Scandi influences: ‘Hinterland – the TV noir so good they made it twice’.
Sioned Morgan, Wales Online: ‘S4C’s early-awaited Y Gwyll/Hinterland is a dark drama with a sense of place’.
UPDATE. Important information about subtitles: Thanks to a question from Anders and some extra clarification from S4C, I have further information about the subtitling for Y Gwyll.
If watching S4C ‘live’ on TV on Tuesday and Thursday, then subtitles are an option. Please note that you will have to choose this option. I just managed to get subtitles on an S4C programme by pressing a handy button marked ‘subtitles’ on my remote. If you don’t have that, further ways to get the subtitles up and running are outlined here: http://www.s4c.co.uk/e_subtitles_english.shtml
If watching ‘live’ online on Tuesday and Thursday, then subtitles are not available. BUT subtitles will be available on catch-up, AND…
The omnibus repeat on Sundays at 10pm will have on-screen subtitles for both TV and online showings. So this looks like the easiest option in a way, as the job of subtitling is automatically done for you. I’m still going to watch the first episode on Tuesday though
UPDATE 29 OCTOBER: Review of Y Gwyll Episode 1 (spoiler free).
Well, I really, really enjoyed this first episode of Y Gwyll: congratulations to S4C and its partners on a great start.
They’ve succeeded in creating a high-quality crime drama that draws on the best of brooding Scandi crime, but which also retains a distinctively Welsh feel. While there are definitely echoes of Wallander (the figure of DCI Mathias and the windswept landscapes) and The Killing (Mathias does lots of Lund-like gazing and thinking), we also have the twinkly lights of the Aber seafront, a caravan overlooking the spectacular Welsh coast, and of course, the Welsh language itself. The acting is great, the dialogue sparky, the cinematography stylish - and there are some heart-stoppingly creepy moments added in as well.
As with all subtitled crime drama, the ultimate test of quality is whether the subtitles get in the way, and they definitely didn’t for me (although their thoroughness in recording every sound effect provided some added entertainment – e.g. ‘rustling’, ‘door creaking’, ‘deep breathing’).
I’m already looking forward to episode 2 on Thursday for the resolution to the Jenkins case, and perhaps also the chance to find out more about Mathias’ own ‘hinterland’. He’s a bit of an enigmatic figure at the moment, a Welshman who is something of an outsider to the close-knit Aber community after time away. It’ll be good to see how his working relationship with DI Mared Rhys develops too…
‘Another wild night in Aber?’… Yes, please!