The Bridge – Review of Episodes 1 and 2

At the centre of the 7,845 metre Oresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden, lying across the yellow line that marks the border between the two, the lifeless body of a woman is found. Although the victim at first appears to be Swedish, the national juristiction of the case turns out to be far from clear, leading a police officer from each country being assigned to the case. Swedish investigator Saga Noren (Sofia Helm) and her Danish counterpart Martin Rodhe (Kim Bodnia) both soon realise that they’ve been pulled into a difficult, bizarre and highly complex case.

Thus begins the acclaimed crime drama The Bridge/Bron/Broen, whose first episodes aired last night on BBC4 between 9.00 and 11.00pm.

Even from the title sequence, with its beautiful, nocturnal time-lapse photography and haunting theme (‘Hollow Talk’ by the Choir of Young Believers), it was clear that we were in for a treat. By the end of the first two episodes I was fully gripped, as the investigative narrative unfolded and two intriguing sub-plots took shape: a rich wife rushing her husband to hospital for a transplant operation, and a man helping a young woman escape an abusive husband, but with a murky past of his own.

In Saga Noren and Martin Rodhe we are given a classic investigative ‘odd couple’. Saga is a particularly interesting character, whose sometimes unconventional behaviour leads her colleagues to regard her as ‘a bit special’. She is a brilliant and knowledgeable investigator, who is ruthlessly logical and focused, and finds social niceties a baffling waste of time. As already discussed in the comments of an earlier post, it’s possible that she has a form of high-functioning autism. (In terms of other TV characters, she reminded me a bit of Star Trek‘s Seven of Nine!) Martin, by contrast, is more of an old school cop, who has a complicated private life and doesn’t always do things by the book, but who seems to take Saga’s behaviour (such as calling him in the early hours with a fresh lead) in his stride. The dynamic between the two looks promising.

- Hmm, not sure what I make of you.
- Feeling's mutual

Some other random observations at this point:

In contrast to The Killing, there are moments of genuine, albeit dark humour in The Bridge, which worked well for me. Watch out for Saga’s ‘romantic’ date (and make a note of how not to put off hunky Swedes the morning after).

The obligatory autopsy scene allows us to appreciate Saga’s intelligence and investigative focus (and was therefore justifiably included in my view). There are some quite graphic photos from the autopsy featured later on, but I’m hoping that’ll be it for now.

The series has an interesting 70s styling. Its palette of browns, oranges and beiges reminded me a little of the recent film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directed by the Swede Tomas Alfredson. One of the characters (flares, leather jacket, moustache) could have stepped straight out of Life On Mars.

I’m very much enjoying the transnational flavour of the series, which is evident in the Danish/Swedish credits, the characters’ dialogue, and of course the plot itself. And yes, they do all understand one another, but Martin has to repeat himself more s-l-o-w-l-y at one point so that the Swedes can follow him properly!

The murderer’s motives look complex and interesting: ‘if you had cared there would have been no victims’. It looks like the series will follow in the tradition of Swedish crime writing (Sjowall & Wahloo, Mankell) by foregrounding social issues. Mindful of spoilers, I shall say no more.

The Oresund Bridge looks remarkably like the Severn Bridge at times (Welsh-English remake please!).

Tonight’s episodes are both repeated and available on BBC iPlayer.

Below is a handy map with the Oresund Bridge to help with orientation: it joins Denmark and its capital city Copenhagen on the left and Sweden’s Malmo, the third largest city after Stockholm and Gothenburg, on the right.

Looking forward to next week’s episodes already!

BBC4 The Bridge – start date confirmed

FOR DETAILS ABOUT SERIES TWO SEE HERE.

With many thanks to Rhian for alerting me to the following:

The Swedish/Danish crime series The Bridge begins on Saturday 21 April at 9.00 pm. Two episodes will be aired that evening (totalling two hours). Further details are available via The Radio Times, which features Sofia Helin, one of the series’ stars, on its front cover this week.

A BBC4 press release describes the series thus: “The Bridge, a 10-part investigative crime drama, begins when the body of a woman is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. A bi-national team is put together to solve the crime and the killer, always one step ahead of the police, becomes the object of a dramatic manhunt.”

The stars of The Bridge, Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia

Not only is The Bridge a Swedish/Danish co-production, it’s a bilingual one.

The original title (which appears on the cover of the DVD) is Bron/Broen, and dialogue is delivered in both languages, reflecting the operations of the bi-national investigative team. I’m not sure if this is a first, but I find the idea of a bilingual crime series quite fascinating (imagine, for example, a British/French series investigating a murder at the exact centre of the Channel Tunnel!). Do the Swedish and Danish investigators all understand/speak their opposite number’s language? Do they switch languages depending on the country they happen to be in? I won’t easily be able to tell, as the languages will only be fully comprehensible to me via subtitles, but perhaps someone can provide illumination!

I’ve heard many good things from those who’ve already watched the series and look forward to seeing it immensely.

Check out the wonderfully atmospheric title sequence with its time-lapse photography on YouTube. The title-track, ‘Hollow Talk’, is by the Danish group Choir of Young Believers.

New Danish crime drama on ITV3: Those Who Kill

My thanks to Rhian over at It’s a Crime! (or a Mystery) for drawing my attention to a new Danish crime drama starting tomorrow, Thursday 23 February, on ITV3 at 10pm.

Those Who Kill (Den Som Dræber) originally aired in Denmark in March 2011 and appears to have been pretty successful – it’s been sold on to a number of other countries and will be remade for the US market (following in the footsteps of Forbrydelsen I).

The investigative team. Wait a minute! Who's that on the right?!*

The series synopsis from ITV3 reads as follows:

‘Those Who Kill is a compelling dark crime series, based on the novels by bestselling author Elsebeth Egholm. It follows the investigations of a special unit of Copenhagen’s police force, consisting of detective inspector Katrina Ries Jenson (Laura Back) and forensic psychiatrist Thomas Schaeffer (Jakob Cedergren). The pair specialise in identifying serial killers that do not fit within traditional behavioural patterns and aim to uncover the psychology of a violent killer in their attempt to solve a case surrounded by fear and mystery’.

I have to confess that this description doesn’t particularly appeal to me, as I’m rather averse to serial killer novels and dramas. They often seem to dwell excessively on sadistic acts of violence and the suffering of (usually) female victims, and of course this violence and suffering are enacted again and again with each successive murder (it’s the grim repetition that really does me in).

But what’s interesting about the ITV3 press release, which I’m guessing from its use of ‘we’ is a translation of Danish press materials, is the way that the subject of serial killings and killers is presented:

‘THOSE WHO KILL is a crime series about a violent criminal surrounded by fear and mystique – the serial killer. Up until now, we have been able to curtail their activities with early – and effective – interventions via the safety net of a comprehensive social welfare system in Scandinavia. But times have changed. Borders have opened up, social welfare is in decline, and slowly but surely the whole system has become imbued with a sense of resigned impotence and callous disregard for those it once sought to rescue. The rifts in the net have become so large that bigger fish are slipping through the mesh, and as a result, a new type of crime is starting to burgeon – killings not grounded in traditional motives and patterns of behaviour.’

So here we are given a sociological explanation for the rise of the serial killer in Scandinavia – the disintegration of the social welfare system (also a principle concern of the 1960s / 1970s ‘Martin Beck’ series by the Swedish crime writers Sjowall and Wahloo). I’d be interested to know if this rise is documented, but, whether real or not, the passage suggests a more thoughtful approach than most dramas to the topic of serial killers, through an exploration of the way in which society and its structures contribute to their making. This impression is reinforced in the description of the investigators’ activities:

‘For both Katrine and Thomas, the challange becomes one of discerning the human behind the monster. For only when they come to understand the fantasies and trauma that drive him are they able to confront him’.

On the one hand, this kind of psychological investigative approach reminds me of Val McDermid’s Carol Jordan/Tony Hill series (of which I’ve read The Last Temptation) and on the other, of historical studies seeking to understand perpetrator motivations and war-crimes (Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men springs to mind). Both try in their different ways to move beyond the idea of killers as one-dimensional monsters, and to comprehend the logic, however distorted, of their actions.

Of course the press release could simply be sophisticated packaging for the usual serial- killer schlock, but who knows, maybe Those Who Kill will be different. I’ll probably watch, given the high quality of other recent Danish dramas on BBC4 and the welcome presence of another strong female lead, but may find myself switching off if things get too uncomfort-able.

The full press release from ITV3 can be accessed here.

*One of the main characters in the drama, Magnus Bisgaard, is played by actor Lars Mikkelsen, who will be familiar to fans of The Killing 1 from his role as the idealistic politician Troels Hartmann.

24 February update: Due to a conspiracy of circumstances involving a snowboard, suspected concussion and a trip to A+E, I didn’t get to see last night’s opening episode. But here are a few Twitter reviews to give a flavour of how Those Who Kill went down with viewers.

@richard0x4A: thosewhokill pretty good. A bit predictable but I enjoyed it. itv3 in decent foreign drama shock.

@Schmolik: ThoseWhoKill last night was distinctly “meh”. Don’t know if Lars Mikkelsen’s cheekbones are enough to keep me interested.

@Packet_editor: #thosewhokill my new The Killing fix

@crifilover: thosewhokill getting tense!

@fleetstreetfox: Hmm. I could miss that and wouldn’t mind #thosewhokill

SoundCloud link to the music from Forbrydelsen / The Killing

For the many of us who have wondered where to find the wonderfully atmospheric music from the Danish crime drama Forbrydelsen / The Killing, information is finally at hand – thanks to blog readers Viv and Andrew.

From Viv I’ve learned that the soundtrack is by the Danish film composer Franz Bak. In addition to Forbrydelsen I, he’s also scored the music for Forbrydelsen II, an episode of Branagh’s Wallander series (‘The Fifth Woman’), and the American version of The Killing.

A large number of his tracks are available on the Franz Bak website (see right-hand column) and on SoundCloud (Playlist 3). If you’re in search of that haunting title music, it’s the Forbrydelsen Montage…

It doesn’t look like tracks can be downloaded or purchased (if you know otherwise please let us know), but at least they can now be enjoyed in one place via computer. Andrew adds that lots of Franz Bak’s music is also available on Spotify.

Thanks again to Viv and Andrew for passing this information on – it’s eased the pain of returning to work tomorrow considerably!

Double celebration…and wishing you a Happy 2012!

Today Mrs P. celebrates not falling over while ice-skating and reaching the milestone of 70,000 hits on the Mrs. Peabody Investigates blog 🙂

To close out the year, here are two lists: 5 popular Mrs P. posts from the 60 published in 2011, and Mrs Peabody’s top 5 reads of the year.

*****

5 of the most popular Mrs P. posts of 2011:

1. BBC4’s The Killing Series 1 [Danish crime TV]

This was the first of a number of Mrs P. posts on the Danish drama Forbrydelsen, whose instant popularity took everyone by surprise (not least BBC4). If you haven’t seen it yet, make doing so one of your resolutions for 2012. Outstanding.

2. BBC1’s Zen [British / Italian crime TV]

My review of the TV series based on Michael Dibdin’s ‘Aurelio Zen’ novels, starring the delectable Rufus Sewell. The BBC, somewhat oddly, decided not to commission a second series.

ZEN (high res)

3. Crime novels that make you want to rant: Philip Kerr’s Field Grey [British / German crime fiction]

This was a lament or a rant, depending on your point of view, which examined Philip Kerr’s seventh Bernie Gunther novel in the context of the previous six books in the series. The eighth, Prague Fatale, which I have yet to read, was released in October 2011.

4. Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy [Danish crime fiction]

A review of one of my standout novels of the year, and the first in this Danish author’s Department Q series. The second, Disgrace, is due out with Penguin in June 2012.

jacket image for Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen - large version

5. Matsumoto’s Inspector Imanishi Investigates [Japanese crime fiction]

This was one of my early posts, and remains a favourite – a review of a Japanese classic from 1961, which still holds up extremely well today.

 ******

Mrs Peabody’s top 5 reads of 2011 (in alphabetical order as I can’t bring myself to rank them):

1. Jussi Adler-Olsen, Mercy (2011 [first published in 2008])

Danish. A bravura start to the Department Q series: powerful, gripping and moving in equal measure. Features a strong and compelling female protagonist  5 stars

jacket image for Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen - large version

2. Jan Costin Wagner, Silence (2011 [2007])

German author / Finnish setting. The second novel in the Kimmo Joentaa series. An absorbing police procedural and a sensitive portrayal of grief  5 stars

3. Sam Hawken, The Dead Women of Juárez (2011)

American. An outstanding crime novel set in the corrupt Mexican border city of Juárez, infamous for its high rate of ‘feminicidios’ (female homicides) 5 stars  

4. Ernesto Mallo, Needle in a Haystack (2010 [2006])

Argentinian. An excellent crime novel, which paints a searing portrait of 1970s Argentina under military rule  5 stars

5. Shuichi Yoshida, Villain (2011 [2007])

Japanese. A gripping dissection of a murder and its repercussions  5 stars

*****

Many thanks to everyone for reading and – most importantly – for contributing in such an illuminating and generous way to the discussions on this blog in 2011.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year and all the very best for 2012!

Forbrydelsen / The Killing Series 2 Finale

First of all, I just have to say: I KNEW IT!!!

I got the murderer dramatically wrong at the end of Forbrydelsen I, so a brief moment of smugness at correctly identifying the perp is permitted!

Some general musings at the end of this excellent second series:                        (no spoilers in line with Mrs. P. policy)

  1. A few people had warned me that the second series wasn’t as good as the first, but I found it immensely enjoyable. The 10-episode format over five weeks inevitably made for a more intense viewing experience, but one that worked extremely well for me. Not least, it was easier to keep the whole of the plot in your head for the duration, and I felt that there were fewer loose ends than in series 1. 
  2. To put this another way, series 2 was a very different entity to the first series, whose 20 episodes explored one central murder and its wider effects at a much slower pace. But Forbrydelsen II worked well on its own more succinct terms.
  3. There were also plenty of similarities between the two series, not least that both featured a strong political storyline and focused on the twin themes of power and corruption. (If there’s a criticism to be made of series 2, it would be of this political strand – for reasons that I can’t go into without revealing major bits of plot…).   
  4. Both series have a pleasing circular narrative (they end where they began in a number of fascinating ways).
  5. Lund rocks! I loved the continuing exploration of her character and the tensions between her duties as a policewoman and her personal life (taken in a slightly different and exceedingly interesting direction this time round).

Roll on Series 3!

Forbrydelsen II's investigative team: Brix, Lund and Strange

If you wish to leave a comment, please don’t give away any details of the plot, to protect those viewers who have yet to see the series.

If you’d like to find out the identity of the murderer or if you wish to comment in more detail on the specifics of the plot, you can do so at Vicky Frost’s excellent blog at The Guardian.

She’s Got the Look: BBC4’s Forbrydelsen / The Killing Series 2

The first two episodes of Forbrydelsen / The Killing Series 2 have finally aired on BBC4. Anticipation had been building over the past week (Sarah Lund on the cover of The Radio Times!), and as I took up my position on the sofa at 8.58pm (complete with patterned Lund tribute jumper), I was practically beside myself with excitement.

Oh! What a wonderfully tense opening! Ah! The dulcet tones of that Neptun soundtrack! Ooh! It’s so good to see you, Sarah, and to hear your funky Danish again!

Series 2 opens a couple of years after the end of the traumatic Nanna Birk Larsen case. Lund has been demoted to an administrative job checking papers in the back of beyond -a mind-numbing exile that makes no use of her exceptional investigative skills. But following the bizarre murder of lawyer Anne Dragsholm, she is recalled to Copenhagen by former boss Lennart Brix, swaps her unflattering POLITI uniform for her traditional chunky-knit jumper, and resumes her rightful role as a police detective (‘this is what I do best’). 

In keeping with The Killing’s status as a police procedural, there’s a continued focus on Lund’s interaction (or non-interaction) with the rest of the investigative team. The wonderfully-monikered Ulrik Strange appears to be the new Meyer (I’m still devastated by the way that partnership turned out), and then there’s Lund’s granite-faced boss Brix, who played a rather ambiguous role in Series 1 (and who is one of the few characters apart from Sarah’s family returning for Series 2). We’re also re-entering the murky world of Danish politics. The (rather endearing) new Justice Minister Thomas Buch is in the midst of complex cross-party negotiations on the introduction of new anti-terrorism laws, and in another plot strand, we see Raben, a former soldier, hoping to be reunited with his wife and young son following his discharge from a psychiatric unit. The connections between the murder and the worlds of high politics and the military are soon, of course, to become the subject of Lund’s sustained investigative interest. 

Sarah Lund and Ulrik Strange (has anyone told him about Meyer?)

What I  particularly enjoyed in these opening episodes was seeing Lund back in her natural habitat – the crime scene. Initially unsure of herself and her abilities following her enforced absence, we see her gradually grow in confidence and take ownership of the investigation. And what’s striking throughout the two episodes is the repeated close-up shots of Lund simply looking, her gaze sweeping across a crime scene, suspect’s house or military office, and continually processing and storing information. As I noted in an earlier post, The Killing frequently references a trope associated with hard-boiled crime fiction – the ‘power of the investigative eye’. It’s all about ‘the look’: looking / seeing / thinking / making links and arriving at an understanding of the complex truth of the crime. Lund looks for and sees things in a way no one else does (be it a bit of cellophane, an ornament, items of furniture, a corpse or a photograph). I absolutely love this focus on the process of detection and on Lund’s intelligence. As ever, it’s a pleasure to see a supremely skilled policewoman on our screens.

So that’s it – the sofa’s now booked every Saturday at 9.00 for the next few weeks (with apologies to the footballing fans in the family). Can’t wait to see more!

Further links

The first two episodes are available on BBC iPlayer for a limited time.

Vicky Frost’s excellent episode-by-episode blog of The Killing returns. Her posts discuss each installment in minute detail and so inevitably contain spoilers. You have been warned!

Guardian Q&A with Sophie Gråbøl.

A short Radio Times piece on translating and subtitling The Killing 2 – with a focus on the particular difficulties presented by expletives. I do hope they haven’t toned down the language too much, given the progamme’s gritty style.

Radio Times: knit your own Sarah Lund jumper.

Radio Times: TV’s top women cops

AT LAST! Start date of The Killing 2 confirmed by BBC

Mrs Peabody’s review of the opening episodes of The Killing 2 is now available here

*******

After months of (mostly) patient waiting on our part, and a little bit of uncertainty, the start date of the second series of Forbrydelsen / The Killing has been confirmed.

Yes finally! Sarah and her jumpers are back on…

BBC4, SATURDAY 19. NOVEMBER 2011, 9.00-11.00pm

(not 12. Nov as previously reported)

This information comes via the BBC Media Centre.

It’s a 10 episode series and the first two episodes will be shown back to back (thanks to Peter for this info!), which probably means the whole series will be aired over 5 weeks. 

And here’s an excerpt from the BBC’s description of the series to set the scene: “It’s been two years since former detective Sarah Lund was divested of her investigative role and transferred to a low-key job in the country, but when the body of a female lawyer is found murdered in macabre and puzzling circumstances, Lund’s former boss at Copenhagen police HQ finds that he has no choice but to call her back in to assist with the investigation.” More here…

By the way, there’s a lovely interview with Sophie Grabol on Newsnight (31. October 2011), in which she discusses how Sarah Lund’s character challenges gender stereotypes.

BBC4 starts repeat of Forbrydelsen / The Killing on Sunday 21 August 2011

For those of you who have yet to see Forbrydelsen, the original Danish production of The Killing, your moment has come! 

BBC4 starts repeating the series this Sunday at 10 o’clock. There are five two-hour episodes being shown per week (20 episodes in all), which promises to be a pretty intensive viewing experience, but if you haven’t yet sampled this superlative crime drama, I very much recommend that you do. It’s even quite a tempting prospect for those of us who caught the series the first time round…  

You can read my review of the first episodes here.

An added bonus: Sunday’s showing of The Killing is preceded at 9.00 by a repeat of Timeshift’s Nordic Noir – The Story of Scandinavian Crime Fiction.

For those of you into Italian crime drama, BBC4 is also repeating an Inspector Montalbano two-parter, Excursion to Tindari. It starts tonight, Saturday at 9pm. And there’s another chance to catch Timeshift’s Italian Noir – The Story of Italian Crime, on Tuesday at 11pm. Molto bene!

Summer’s here! Mrs Peabody’s holiday crime fiction recommendations

Now that it’s July, my thoughts are turning to the serious business of holiday reading.

Choosing reading matter to take on holiday is something I take extremely seriously: an afternoon of peaceful reading with ice-cubes tinkling in a cool drink by my side is one of my chief holiday pleasures, and the quality, quantity and variety of the crime fiction in my suitcase needs to be just right. Major disasters in the past have included being caught short in Spain, resulting in an exhaustive hunt for an English-language bookshop, and paying well over the odds for some crime fiction in New Zealand, where book prices are incredibly high. As a result, I now always carry a small library with me abroad (Kindle, of course, is another option, although I like to take second-hand paperbacks I can leave for other holiday-makers, which I then cunningly replace in my luggage with souvenirs).

The following are some random holiday crime fiction recommendations – all books that I’ve read and enjoyed, albeit for varying reasons. If you feel like posting suggestions in return I’d be very pleased to see them.

  • Light and frothy, with an emphasis on entertainment. Perfect for lounging by the pool or whiling away a few hours in a café with a cappuccino.

Fred Vargas’ Detective Commissaire Adamsberg series: a quirky and erudite collection of crime novels, mostly set in Paris. It’s not essential to read them in order, in my view, but Have Mercy on Us All is a good place to start. You may or may not know, but Fred is actually a female author, and an archaeologist by trade.

Colin Bateman’s Mystery Man: Murder, Mayhem and Damn Sexy Trousers (2009). It’s rare for writers to pull off a successful comic crime novel. This one made me laugh out loud, in spite of its ultimately rather serious subject matter – the legacy of the Nazi past and the weighty theme of post-war justice. A deft juggling act.

Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen series (televised earlier this year). Written quite a while ago now, but they’ve held up well, with a nicely rounded investigative figure. A wry look at Italian policing, politics and life. An earlier Mrs P. post on Ratking is available here.

  • Stronger stuff – more intense and challenging crime. The sort of novel you might not normally get round to, and which isn’t necessarily the easiest of reads in terms of its content or style.

Andrew Taylor’s Roth Trilogy. Brilliant and somewhat underrated, this trilogy excavates the history of a sociopathic killer, moving backwards in time from the present day to the 1970s and the 1950s. Best read in order for cumulative effect.

George P. Pelecanos, The Big Blowdown. First in the Washington Quartet by an author also famous for his contribution to The Wire. Grim and gritty depiction of D.C. just after the Second World War. Breathtakingly good.

Jussi Adler Olsen’s Mercy – a recent Danish sensation, which is brilliantly written, but very hard-hitting. First in the Department Q series, featuring detective Carl Mørck. A Mrs P. review of Mercy is available here.

Happy holidays and enjoy!