Stop Press! BBC Four announces autumn Scandi dramas: Beck, The Bridge and Arne Dahl

UPDATES: The first episode of Beck aired on Saturday 12 September at 9pm on BBC4. My review of ‘Buried Alive’ (no major spoilers) is available here.

Beck has now finished. Arne Dahl begins on Saturday, 17. October at 9.00.

The start date for The Bridge 3 is Saturday 21. November (9pm; double episode). Mrs P blog post and trailer available here.

Series 2 of The Young Montalbano starts on Saturday 2. January 2016. More info available here.

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BBC Four’s Channel Editor Cassian Harrison made some exciting crime drama announcements at the Edinburgh TV festival today. Below is an extract from the BBC4 press release:

>> BBC Four brings viewers an autumn of gripping Scandinavian drama with the return of the hugely popular The Bridge (the final episode of the last series was enjoyed by over 1.5m viewers) and Arne Dahl, as well as the launch of new crime thriller Beck.

beck

Beck: Based on the characters of the hugely popular Martin Beck detective series of novels by Swedish husband-and-wife writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Beck sees the much-loved detective brought to life on the small screen. Following the fortunes of enigmatic and extremely methodical detective Martin Beck and his partner, the irascible, impulsive Gunvald Larsson, Beck is arguably the originator of what has become known as Scandinavian crime: the good-cop, bad-cop partnership which went on to form the modern crime-fighting blueprint.

The brand-new feature-length films see detective Martin Beck investigating the shocking death of a young woman found strangled in a hotel room, a gangster kingpin executed by a sniper in front of his family, a terrorist attack and a suspicious hospital death which sourly turns out to be premeditated murder. It’s an intricate web of characters and lies. Think again. The killer is never who you expect it to be.

Starring Peter Haber (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) as Beck and Mikael Persbrandt (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug) as Larsson, the drama’s combination of complex woven details of police detection and beautifully realised characters combined with twisting, masterful storylines has ensured that the award-winning series won fans and acclaim from around the world.

broen

The Bridge 3: When Helle Anker, the founder of the first gender-neutral kindergarten in Copenhagen and a high-profile debater on gender issues, is found murdered in Sweden, the Danish and Swedish police are compelled to join forces once more for a third series of The Bridge. The brutal killing turns out to be only the first in a series of gruesome crimes, strung together in a case which involves Saga Norén of the Malmo Police personally and which will change her forever. A powerful, intriguing and unpredictable tale of crime, played out by fascinating and complex characters, the new season will revolve around the concept and structures of family – new, old, deviant, classical, constructive and destructive. At its heart, The Bridge carries a central theme of personal responsibility and its consequences.

dahl

Arne DahlThe Swedish crime drama returns with five new stories. The A Unit has been disbanded for the past two years. When a wave of brutal murders hits Polish nurses in Sweden, the National Police see their chance to reinstate the The A Unit, and Kerstin Holm, previously a member of the team, is assigned to lead them.

We meet a chastened team of individuals who have allowed the all-consuming nature of their police work to eat away at their private lives. Demands and expectations have never been higher and a cold wind blows through the corridors at the National Police head-quarters. Can Kerstin get the unit to deliver, or is this new effort a misguided attempt by a paranoid police force in a time of increasingly unusual and refined criminal activity?

It is produced by Filmlance International AB in co-production with Sveriges Television and ZDF Germany, written by Erik Ahrnbom, Linn Gottfridsson, Peter Emanuel Falck and Fredrik Agetoft, adapted from the novels by Arne Dahl.<<

This is all very fitting on the day that sees the UK publication of the fourth in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, authored by David Lagerkranz (it’s out in the US on 1st September). Reviews appear to be pretty favourable thus far, as this example by The Telegraph‘s Jake Kerridge shows. So glad to see Salander living to fight another day.

The-Girl-in-the-Spiders-Web-promo

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Reminder: The Bridge 2 and Hinterland air this Saturday 4 January

A quick reminder that this Saturday is a bumper one for crime fans, with the start of not just one but two cracking crime series on the BBC.

On BBC Four from 21.00 to 23.00, we have the first two episodes of The Bridge 2, the Danish-Swedish co-production that attracted considerable praise in the UK when the first series aired in 2012. You’ll find further details about Bron/Broen 2 over at The Radio Times website – and here’s a bit of what they have to say about it:

>> In a thrilling opening sequence, a cargo vessel wanders from a shipping lane to head directly for the gigantic Øresund Bridge linking Denmark and Sweden. Despite frantic radio pleas from the coastguard, there is no word from the ship as it crashes into the structure that spans a mass of chilly, lonely water. Yes, The Bridge is back. After nearly two years in “real time” and precisely 13 months in fictional time, the cult Scandi thriller’s brilliant cop partnership of Saga Noren and Martin Rohde returns. <<

An amusing clip of Saga and Martin’s reunion is available on the BBC4 website here – isn’t it great to see them together again?

And lest you’ve forgotten, here’s the wonderful title sequence, featuring the song ‘Hollow Talk’, by The Choir of Young Believers. Marvellous stuff.

Meanwhile, over on BBC One Wales from 21.30 to 23.05, we see the start of the gripping Welsh crime drama Hinterland, which aired a little while back in a Welsh-language version and will now be shown again in a bilingual version. I am SO pleased that both English and Welsh feature (the latter with subtitles), as this accurately reflects life in Wales, where you hear speakers hopping from one language to the other all the time.

This is what the BBC has to say on the decision to film in both languages (full press release available here):

>> The special adaptation of the drama for BBC One Wales will feature dialogue in both English and Welsh – the first time both languages have played a prominent role in a drama series broadcast by the BBC. The Welsh-language elements of the programme will have on-screen subtitles.

Starring Richard Harrington, Hinterland has already attracted critical acclaim for its brooding portrayal of police life in west Wales. The Guardian said “fans of washed-out noir are going to love this for its slow, confident pacing, attention to detail and Harrington’s engrossing performance.”

The new series follows a commitment made by BBC Cymru Wales Director, Rhodri Talfan Davies, at the Celtic Media Festival in April to better reflect Welsh language life and culture on BBC One Wales. At the time, he said: “I think we have to spend more time finding bridges that can connect different audiences to cultures, view-points and experiences they might not normally encounter. On BBC One Wales I want us to think creatively about how we allow Welsh language voices and experiences to be heard and experienced a little more.” <<

For my take on the Scandi-influenced, Welsh-language original Y Gwyll, including a spoiler-free review of the first episode, see here. Further details are available in The Radio Times.

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that these two programmes clash… Set those recorders now – neither should be missed!

Nominations, shortlists and stacks of crime

A few tasty tidbits as we (finally) make it to the weekend.

1. Spotted on It’s a Crime! (Or a Mystery): the BAFTA TV nominations are out, and the International category includes two series with strong elements of crime – The Bridge and Homeland. They make up half of the nominations (listed below).

The one I want to win…

The Bridge – Hans Rosenfeldt, Charlotte Sieling, Anders Landstrom, Bo Ehrhardt (Filmlance, Nimbus, ZDF Enterprises/BBC Four)
Game of Thrones – David Benioff, D.B Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Girls – Lena Dunham, Jennie Konner, Judd Apatow (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Homeland – Production Team – (20th Century Fox/Channel 4)

The full list with all categories is available here (thank you, Rhian!).

2. The Independent foreign fiction prize 2013 shortlist has been announced, and contains one of the crime narratives I highlighted in an earlier post – Gerbrand Bakker’s The Detour (translated from the Dutch by David Colmer / Harvill Secker).

Publisher description: A Dutch woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales after confessing to an affair with one of her students. In Amsterdam, her stunned husband forms a strange partnership with a detective who agrees to help him trace her. They board the ferry to Hull on Christmas Eve. Back on the farm, a young man out walking with his dog injures himself and stays the night, then ends up staying longer. Yet something is deeply wrong. Does he know what he is getting himself into? And what will happen when her husband and the policeman arrive? The Detour is a deeply moving new novel, shot through with longing and the quiet tragedy of everyday lives.

It all sounds rather existential. I’m intrigued! Here’s the full shortlist, which might need further exploration as well.

3. Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year

I’m getting very excited as crime novels for the 2014 Petrona begin to arrive. Having been away from the university for a while over Easter, I returned to a veritable mountain of packages, and felt like proverbial kid in a sweet shop as I opened them all up.

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Petronas on the right; other goodies to the left

The winner of the first Petrona Award will be announced at CrimeFest in Bristol (30. May to 2. June). I’ve just booked my ticket and hotel and am looking forward to it all greatly, not least because this will be my first ever visit to the convention. The programme looks very inviting. Perhaps see you there?

Reflections on BBC4’s The Bridge / Bron / Broen

Following the utterly gripping and nail-biting finale of The Bridge, it’s time for a few reflections on this ground-breaking Danish-Swedish production.

In line with Mrs P. policy, there are NO FINALE SPOILERS (if that’s what you’re after, do head over to The Guardian‘s ‘Bridge blog‘).

The Bridge vs The Killing

Before The Bridge aired in the UK, a number of people who’d seen the series said they’d liked it even more than The Killing. Although I’ve enjoyed The Bridge hugely, I’m not yet prepared to go that far: the first series of The Killing remains my top crime-drama viewing experience and Sarah Lund still edges it over Saga and Martin’s (admittedly great) investigative duo.

This preference is mainly due to the depth of characterisation in The Killing. In the first series especially, the focus was on a small number of characters whom you got to know very well, whereas The Bridge had a larger cast and, with the exception of Saga and Martin, had less time to dig deep. Compare, for example, the picture we were able to build up of Nanna Birk Larsen as the murder victim in The Killing 1 and those of the politician / prostitute at the beginning of The Bridge (merely the first of many). And there were a number of interesting characters who featured heavily in early plot-lines of The Bridge, but then simply faded away. Their disappearing acts may be a reflection of the reality of investigations – people make their contribution or are ruled out as suspects and then the team moves on – but some of their stories felt incomplete and I’d liked to have known more.

Fabulous biting humour

Those minor quibbles aside, The Bridge was a top-notch Scandi treat that had me gripped throughout, and became increasingly assured as time went on. The last four episodes were absolutely cracking.

One particularly fine quality was apparent right from the start of the series: a biting and at times splendidly irreverent humour. Much of this was generated by the interplay between the odd-ball Danish-Swedish investigative couple, and also provided a way of managing the audience’s reaction to Saga as a character on the autistic spectrum (we’re invited to see her behaviour as ‘endearingly odd’ rather than ‘threateningly weird’). There’s been some debate about the suitability of this strategy, but I felt it worked extremely well, and that the writers kept the balance between the humour and the more serious elements of the drama just right. Episodes 7 and 8 were superb in this respect.

Hey Martin…was it something I said?!

In sum, The Bridge is high-quality crime drama firmly located in the tradition of socially-engaged Scandinavian crime fiction, with a wonderful pair of detectives and more twists than fusilli pasta. If you haven’t yet seen it, you’re in for a treat.

For earlier posts on The Bridge, see here and here.

And, for one last time, a link to the wonderful title sequence, featuring the sublime ‘Hollow Talk’ by the Choir of Young Believers.

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.