I have been viewing, for the first time, the first part of the 2011 Scandinavian television series The Bridge – which follows a Danish policeman and a Swedish policewoman as they criss-cross the 8 kilometre Oresund Bridge (which links Copenhagen and Malmo) in the search of a killer mastermind.
The townscapes are stunning; but the characters and societies presented positively dystopian – and have you wondering whether Denmark (where I lived for a year - in 1990) is actually worth getting to!!
Coincidentally, today’s Guardian has an interview with the Danish star – Kim Bodnia
What, the journalist asks, is the appeal of shows such as The Bridge?
"We are caught up in the darkness, the evil and the misery – we just do those best." Even though Bodnia, 48, is one of the most genial interviewees I've encountered, as he sets out this theory he sounds like a cross between Kierkegaard and Ingmar Bergman.But surely you can't be right about that. Isn't Denmark regularly voted the happiest country in Europe?
"It is, but you wouldn't guess that from our film or TV."
True – Danish film has been not just one of the most engrossing national cinemas, but unremittingly, cherishably bleak. And Bodnia in his early days as an actor was part of this Nordic noir movement: "I was always good at playing evil……..- The Swedes got there first – their dramas were always the darkest and most upsetting, and we used to love them when I was growing up in Denmark. Now us Danes have caught up."
The popularity of recent Danish and Swedish crime films, including the adaptations of Larsson's Millennium trilogy, can possibly be traced back to Ingmar Bergman's 1962 film Winter Light, which dramatised the Swede's existential crisis…………..
The reason the series been so compelling is not so much to do with the whodunit, but rather the relationship between the 2 detectives. Yes there have been odd couples in crime dramas before (Morse and Lewis, Holmes and Watson, Clouseau and Cato, not to mention Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in HBO's marvellous new series True Detective), but none so fruitful as these two. Norén is a cop with Asperger's (even though that word never appears in the script) and so emotes very little, but solves crimes with devastating deductive skills. She takes the inversion of gender roles one step further than Sarah Lund: sure, she effectively plays the traditional male role (though she's much more rule-bound than Lund) and is equally affectless, but she confers on her male co-worker the traditional female attributes seen in detective dramas.