Blu-ray review: Modus – Complete Season One

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Murder in a Winter Wonderland: A forensic psychologist and her daughter are drawn into the investigation of a series of murders.

Nordic Noir goes all festive with a Christmas thriller based on best-selling author and former Norwegian Minister of Justice Anne Holt’s novel Fear Not.

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Inger Johanne Vik (Melinda Kinnaman) has returned to Sweden after several years working for the FBI as a criminal profiler. Alongside her new career as a part-time university lecturer, she has published a book. Back in her homeland, she is determined to focus on her two daughters. Plans go awry when Inger attends her sister’s wedding reception.

A massive hit when it aired in Sweden, Modus was seen by 1.2 million people. Several other Anne Holt books have been optioned and a second season of Modus will start shooting in 2017. It’s Swedish broadcast coincided with Nordic Noir’s fiftieth anniversary. The series, and Anne Holt’s novel, follows in a long tradition of Scandinavian crime fiction highlighting the cracks in society.

Dark and dense, it explores the highly topical issues of hate crimes and radicalisation.

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The book was the fourth in Vik/Stubo series. Bringing it to screen the producers have shifted the action from Norway to Sweden. Changing location without weakening its cultural focus or softening its dramatic punch, Emmy award-winning screenwriters Mai Brostrøm and Peter Thorsboe zoned in on Anne Holt’s searing social commentary and crafted a series with international appeal. Already shattering records for ratings the series attempts to add to its list of achievements with an award for most characters in a Nordic drama. Boasting 52 speaking parts, more than any other Swedish series, it requires careful watching to get to know and keep up the seemingly constant stream of new faces.

A variation on the tried and tested amateur sleuth and police procedural formats, it occasionally plays out by-the-numbers. Nothing wrong with cliché in a genre but over-reliance on tried and tested routines and the audience will zone out. Pacing is uneven, the series loses momentum half-way through the run and only regains its stride in the final episode.

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Not top-drawer Scandi-drama but it does have thrilling moments. Occasionally playing out like a Nordic Noir greatest hits compilation it’s a stop gap until the next prestige series arrives.

The glue that binds Modus together and makes it watchable despite its faults, and dodgy American accents is some excellent performances. Esmeralda Struwe comes close to selling the series on her own with her convincing portrayal of an autistic teenager who has witnessed a murder and is unable to communicate what she has seen. Krister Henriksson demonstrates precisely why he is one of Sweden’s most in demand actors with a performance which constantly draws your attention. As the husband of a murdered bishop, he convincingly inhabits the character’s skin and is the centre of gravity for every scene he appears in.

Modus – Complete Season One is available on DVD and Blu-ray

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Bridge Over Nordic Water

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How a TV series is helping transform Malmö into a must visit destination: Sweden’s third largest city is the backdrop to a hit Scandi-crime series.

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Showing no signs off running out of steam the third season of Danish-Swedish crime series The Bridge has been a critical and ratings success throughout Scandinavia.

One of Scandinavian TV’s biggest exports, The Bridge has been screened in 174 countries. Interest in the series is at an all time high cementing the third season’s status as one of 2015’s most anticipated returning dramas.

Since The Bridge first aired on BBC Four Malmö has had an allure for fans of Nordic Noir eager to follow in the footsteps of Saga Norén and Martin Rhode. In tandem with the launch of the third season a series of events and activities have been organised that that will satisfy even the most ardent Saga Norén fans. 

Malmö Museer’s display of props, costumes, and set designs is a must visit destination for aficionados. Running until September 2016 the exhibition is entitled ‘A Non-Existent Malmö’. As the title reflects, The Bridge represents a Malmö that does not exist. The collection of exhibits invites visitors to consider what The Bridge’s success may say about contemporary Nordic society.

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Alongside Saga Norén’s costume and mustard coloured Porsche, the centrepiece of the exhibition is a concrete bunker which represents cracks in the welfare state. Visitors that peer through the fractured edifice will see props and costumes from all three seasons including amulets and animal masks from the second series.

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The exhibition also includes photographs, video clips, a map of Malmö locations featured in the series, and a large production bible which details the series creators’ key creative choices offering a revealing insight into the workings behind a hit TV series. Illuminating and engaging, the exhibition provides an exhaustive overview of The Bridge and its place in modern Scandinavian society.

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Fans eager to take the experience of being in Malmö to an entirely different level should book a place on the location tour.

Travelling around the city’s hotspots, its backstreets and deserted industrial plants, a guide reveals behind the scenes stories, explains how Malmö has been transformed in recent years, and offers insights into Swedish culture.

An on board DVD player screens clips enabling fans to compare locations with their appearance on screen.

The tour lets fans follow in the footsteps of on-screen detectives Saga Norén and Martin Rohde. Viewers will be surprised to discover that a doctor’s surgery doubles as the city’s police station in the series. Taking in Malmö locations featured prominently in the series the tour visits the exterior of Saga Norén’s apartment block and offers fans spectacular views of the Öresund Bridge. 

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Backdrop to three seasons of murder, intrigue, and international police co-operation, the Öresund Bridge is a symbol of cross-border harmony. Opened in 2000, the ten mile crossing has a deep meaning for Denmark and Sweden. Until 1658 Skåne County was part of Denmark and in the years between 1521 and 1814 the two nations went to war 27 times. An architectural triumph, the bridge represents close cultural and economic ties between countries that once waged war but have now found a lasting peace.

The Facts:

Fans making a pilgrimage to Sweden’s southern capital to inspect scenes of crimes featured in the series will experience a metropolis more vibrant than its small screen counterpart. A cosmopolitan city undergoing expansion and renewal, previously an industrial district Malmö is now at the forefront of cutting-edge developments in design. An international centre for innovation and culture, Malmö ranked fourth in Forbes 2013 list of the world’s most innovative cities. This future-facing metropolis is home to a diverse populace, the city’s residents speak 176 languages.

Easily accessible via Copenhagen Airport. The average rail journey time between airport terminal and Malmö Central is 20 minutes.

Further Information

Scandinavian Airlines offer direct flights to Copenhagen from London Heathrow, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Manchester:

https://www.flysas.com/uk/flights/denmark/

For more information about Malmö:

http://www.visitsweden.com/sweden/Regions–Cities/Malmo/

Find information about The Bridge exhibition at Malmö Museer and tickets for The Bridge Tour here:

http://www.malmotown.com/en/?s=bridge#thebridge

Download your personal Bridge mini guide to Malmö here:

http://www.visitsweden.com/PageFiles/45269/VS_THEBRIDGETHREE_MINIGUIDE_PR.pdf

The Öresund Bridge: Photo © Janus Langhorn /imagebank.sweden.se

DVD Review: Crimes of Passion

Arrow Films’ latest DVD Crimes of Passion release demonstrates Scandinavia has a long history of crime fiction. In the decades before Nordic Noir’s emergence writers put a distinctly Scandinavian spin on the detective story.

Sweden’s first “Queen of crime fiction”, Maria Lang (real name Dagmar Lange) is frequently compared to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Writing in an era before Larssen, Nekker, and Mennkell had popularised Nordic Noir her novels were part of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. A prolific author, she produced a novel a year between 1949 to 1990. Fondly remembered by many of the current crop of Swedish crime novelists, Camilla Läckberg has mentioned reading Lang’s books in her youth.

In Lang’s hands the traditional murder-mystery became less cosy and more adventurous. Daring, for the time, references to illicit relationships, and same sex partnerships set her work apart from anything being produced by her English counterparts.

Most of her novels are set in the fictional township Skoga, based loosely upon the author’s home town of Nora.

Adapted from Lang’s early novels, Crimes of Passion is a series of six feature films set in 1950s Sweden. The period is authentically recreated via meticulously researched clothing and hairstyles along with an impressive array of vintage motor vehicles.

Doctoral student Puck ( Tuva Novotny) is studying crime fiction. When we first meet her she is lecturing on Zola’s Thérèse Raquin. Invited to a midsummer party on a small island she embraces the opportunity to go somewhere without a telephone. Celebrations are cut short when Puck discovers that one of the guests has been strangled by a silk scarf. Every person who attended the party is a suspect. Teaming up with Eje (Linus Wahlgren) and Commissioner Wijk (Ola Rapace of Wallander and Skyfall) this intrepid trio sifts through the evidence, determined to stay alive and catch the killer.

From a remote island in Bergslagen through to a vicarage on Christmas Eve, this courageous threesome faces murder wherever they travel.

Reverent without being too referential, the programme is faithful to the books and era. The production team have left themselves with enough room to add some creative flourishes whilst honouring the source material. Sumptuously photographed, the cinematography is composed of rich colours. Karl & Pär Frid’s score echoes the sounds of a pre Rock and Roll era. A Saul Bass inspired title sequence pays homage to his work for Alfred Hitchcock and doffs a Fedora hat to Mad Men.

Deceptively familiar, the series mostly adheres to the established framework familiar to Miss Marple fans of a murder in an isolated community being investigated by an amateur sleuth albeit with the addition of sexual tension and greater emphasis on psychological realism. Acknowledging its influences for all to see, the first episode references Christie’s “And Then There Were None”.

Definitely old fashioned and yet, paradoxically, thoroughly modern. The opening episode wrong-foots viewers by following the Christie template until a revelation reminds viewers that they are firmly in Scandinavian crime fiction territory. A stylish production with superb performances from the series regulars. Eagle-eyed fans of Nordic Noir films and TV shows will spot actors from Arne Dahl, Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves, and Let the Right One In.

Six feature length films that will delight period drama and whodunnit aficionados.

Crimes of Passion is available to order from Amazon.

 

DVD Review: Anno 1790

Arrow Films’ Nordic Noir imprint powers up its very own time machine and transports us to the tail end of the eighteenth century with an audacious series that is equal parts criminal investigation, romance, political drama, and conspiracy thriller set against a background of immense social and constitutional transformation. The Age of Enlightenment was a time in which the world we know was being born. Reason battled with religion for the hearts and minds of the age. Europe may have been steeped in blood from wars and revolutions, its people tired of seeing its young men being needlessly slaughtered in military campaigns but by 1790 the continent was plunged into a conflict that had to be waged. The stakes were very high, liberation from the dark ages and the creation of a new society in which reason and science prevailed. Across the continent aftershocks from the French Revolution were still being felt. Ruling elites were fearful of contagion and rebels plotted in darkened corners to overthrow the existing regimes and replace them with more egalitarian and democratically accountable models.

Created by Johan Mardell ( former head of Fiction at SVT and Head of Production at Svensk Filmindustri) and Jonas Frykberg (The Girl who Played with Fire), Anno 1790 was an ambitious undertaking from Pampas Production. Mardell’s initial aim was to create a series unlike anything else on Swedish television. By marrying the crime thriller with a historical drama Mardell and Frykberg soon realized that the dramatic possibilities afforded by not being able to rely upon modern technology to solve a plot point opened up a panoply of possible storylines. With location filming undertaken in Stockholm’s historic quarters matched alongside some highly detailed sets constructed inside an abandoned hangar in Kumla, Anno 1790 is one of the most lavishly budgeted shows to have been commissioned by Swedish broadcaster SVT. Unflinching in its recreation of life in the 1800s, the series valiantly elects not to over sentimentalize the past, instead demonstrating the harshness of life for ordinary citizens and explores the extent to which institutionally sanctioned inequalities may breed discontent.

The Russo-Swedish war is in its final stages. Our hero, Johan Gustav Dåådh (Peter Eggers) is tending the wounds of injured military personnel. Emotionally torn between the need to alleviate suffering and finding a way to end this senseless conflict Dåådh is a Republican with an interest in science and a strong belief in French Revolution’s ideals. Openly expressing such views within a year of the French revolution’s opening salvo was very dangerous. Across Europe, governments feared replication and would meter out severe forms of torture to those suspected of fermenting sedition. Seeking aid as he tries to offer medical assistance to the battleground’s weak, weary, and wounded Dåådh enlists the services of borderline alcoholic, and fervent Christian, Simon Freund (Joel Spira). This pairing of rationalist and spiritual believer provides a dramatically satisfying way to illustrate the key debate of the Enlightenment era, science versus religion, in a form that is consistent with what we know of this period from surviving historical texts. Suffering a gunshot wound, Freund fears that his life may be about to end and attempts to make the atheist physician swear a religious oath he will return the corpse to the family estate. Freund’s wound is not fatal and despite not having vocalized a vow Dåådh escorts him back home. As tutor to the children of Carl Fredrik Wahlstedt (Johan Hson Kjellgren), the commissioner of Stockholm’s constabulary Freund is a gateway to a realm of society which, by its very existence, is diametrically opposed to Dåådh’s ideological beliefs. Image

The age of the resurrectionists was not quite over in 1790. Knowledge of human anatomy was an emerging field and in private conversation with a city official Dåådh admits that having delivered Freund he is eager to bid farewell so he can return to an academy in order to further his knowledge, unaware that he will soon have ample opportunity to do so as he is forced to perform an autopsy on a local dignitary found dead in a prostitute’s boudoir. By offering assistance in the murder investigation Dåådh’s is instantly placed in opposition against the Republican sympathizers with whom he previously consorted. The offer of permanent employment enables Dåådh to slowly transform the system from within ensuring that henceforth justice is to be administered in a merciful form. Any strides he may make in transforming the judicial process are viewed with deep suspicion by his former allies. Balancing on a double-edged sword, Dåådh must not attract attention from those in the political arena who may regard his personal beliefs to be treasonous. Struggling to deny his love for Magdelena Wahlstedt (Linda Zilliacus), the wife of the police chief constable, Dåådh lives with an ever-present fear that discovery would permanently exclude him from her company and also result in his post being filled by a competitor with less socially progressive views on how to police the city. Image

As a historical costume drama comparisons will inevitably be made with the feature film A Royal Affair and miraculously Anno 1790 manages to equal the movie’s aesthetics on a considerably lower TV budget. Some intriguing stylistic choices have been made by the art director, specifically in the use of colour, demonstrating how much in accord the creative team was in terms of communicating the creator’s collective vision and understanding the script’s subtextual material. Anno 1790 is a superlative production, containing some of the most intriguing screen moments to have occurred since the explosion of interest in Nordic films and TV. It transposes the tropes of the modern police procedural onto a historical drama and in doing so teasingly invites the viewer to comment upon how little our society may have changed despite whatever progress we may think has occurred in the ensuing centuries. Offering a glimpse into the early development of pathology as an investigative tool alongside the foundations of modern Swedish parliamentary democracy, Anno 1790 is an undiscovered classic awaiting its moment in the spotlight. A benchmark example of Nordic Noir, the series can be compared favourably to A Royal Affair, The Killing, and Borgen. Possibly the finest series you’ve never seen it should find a welcome home amongst any Scandi fan’s DVD library,

Anno 1790 is available to order from Amazon. 

DVD Review: Arne Dahl

81EOVs67rDL._SL1500_ In the recently published Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV Barry Forshaw evaluated Sweden’s rich legacy in terms of contributions to the genre. As well as being the largest country, in geographical terms, within the Scandinavian region Sweden has been a dominant force within crime fiction ever since Sjöwall and Wahlöö created a new template which used the genre’s conventions to explore contemporary social issues. More recently Henning Mankell and Steig Larrson have continued and advanced this tradition with significant critical and commercial rewards. Into this ever enlarging cannon of Swedish crime writers comes a new name, Arne Dahl.

Whilst amassing a substantial number of published credits since 1990 it was in 1998 that literary critic Jan Arnald gave birth to his better known Arne Dahl pseudonym and started writing crime fiction in tandem with his more analytical journalistic output . In the years since the publication of the first Intercrime novel, The Blinded Man (originally entitled Misterioso) the Arne Dahl books have sold more than 2.5 million copies, been translated into 25 languages published in over 30 countries and been the recipient of several high profile prizes including both Danish and German Crime Writing Awards. p01jwpz7 With Jan Arnald/Arne Dahl’s profile riding high on the back of BBC Four’s screening of the series, Arrow Films has given the show a DVD release and Random House imprint Vintage is publishing English language translations of the first two Intercrime novels, The Blinded Man and Bad Blood with the promise of To the Top of the Mountain and Europa Blues to follow later in the year.

Produced by production company Filmlance, for Sweden’s equivelent of the BBC, SVT, Arne Dahl is a ten part series that adapts fhe first five Intercrime novels. Demonstrating their commitment to making the best possible crime show Filmlance have ensured that some of the finest directors currently working in Swedish television get to helm episodes, most notably Harald Hamrell who is best known to fans of Scandinavian TV for Beck and Real Humans. Arne Dahl The novels are some of the most intelligent examples of crime fiction to have been translated into English within recent years. Each book is densely packed with social and cultural information wrapped up in a bow made of gripping tension. To ensure that they produced adaptations which did the books justice and yet played to the strengths of TV as a medium Filmlance secured the services of Arne Dahl in an advisory capacity, Taking an active interest in the scripting and casting Dahl made sure that overall spirit of his prose was not compromised.

The first Intercrime novel, The Blinded Man, was published in the late ’90s and some minor modifications were required to bring the stories bang up to date most notably in terms of home entertainment technology, working practices, and greater strides with regards gender equality in the recruitment of senior police officer.s. That the overall beats of the story remain relatively unchanged is testament to Dahl’s understanding of the criminal psyche and some excellent plotting. The series focuses on an elite team within the Swedish police force known as the A-Unit. The team investigates new forms of criminality that have begun to appear in Sweden since globalisation became a reality. Headed by CID inspector Jenny Hultin (Irene Lindh) the A-Unit explore the darker recesses of modern Swedish society. Cases that are too sensitive or specialised for regular police departments are passed on to the team, Amongst the cases that they investigate is an attempt to put capitalism at risk by a serial killer targeting financiers, the use of Vietnam War era execution methods, a drug barons concealing his crimes, and the murder of a neuroscientist which triggers an even more more sinister chain of events.

Hand-picked by Hultin, each team member has specific skills which must be combined those of their colleagues in order to solve the case and apprehend the guilty party. It is only when functioning as a team that progress can be made but Arne Dahl has saddled each member with enough baggage to break the back of the most strong willed of people. Private tensions are such that at times it seems as though professional and private lives may simultaneously self destruct. 35420 At the start of the series we are introduced to Paul Hjelm (Shanti Ronay), an idealistic officer with a spotless career record who throws the rule book out of the window when he makes a judgement call during a siege that saves a life knowing that it might terminate his career. More alive when on the beat than at home he needs the A-Unit not only only to save his career but also to give his life meaning. With each other team member we see echoes of Hjelm’s fractured self, whatever professional accolades they have earnt has been at a great cost to their emotional well-being. Paradoxically, it is only when operating as a team that old wounds are healed and long standing psychological scars are healed.

In terms of both the fiction and production this a very well cast series. The team members function as individual components of a group psyche as such are less effective when separated from the gestalt. As any media professional will testify casting a series is an inexact science based on personal hunches that don’t always pay off but with this series they have secured the services of first rate actors who perfectly inhabit the skin of the characters they are playing. That Gunnar Nyberg (Magnus Samuelson) is played to great effect and with remarkable sensitivity by a former winner of the World’s Strongest Man contest shatters an ill founded myth that people from other disciplines can’t enter the acting profession and experience anything resembling success. The guest roles are also cast with absolute precision but the standout performances is given by Cesar Sarachu as the Obi-Wan like Cleaner who imparts mystical information at the right moment.

Arne Dahl is that most remarkable of things; a success in both mediums in spite or because each has been specifically tailored . Dahl’s career as a literary critic means that he has an acute sense of what constitutes a really cracking narrative but, thankfully, he knows precisely when to leave his more esoteric hat at the door thereby ensuring that the emotional journey follows at its own pace and is not dictated by a theoretical model. The series is an essential edition to any Scandi fans DVD library. Once the DVDs have been watched and rewatched go out and buy the books – precision perfect prose and enough subtle differences to make savouring the stories all over again worthwhile.

Arne Dahl can be ordered on DVD from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Arne-Dahl-Complete-Series-DVD/dp/B00C7Q25EO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370727377&sr=8-1&keywords=arne+dahl

Both The Blinded Man and Bad Blood are available from Amazon; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blinded-Man-Intercrime-thriller-ebook/dp/B008FY4T82/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1370727377&sr=8-3&keywords=arne+dahl

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Book Review: Nordic Noir by Barry Forshaw

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No longer a niche strand of crime fiction tucked away on a hard to find shelf deep within the backroom of your friendly neighbourhood book store or buried at the rear of a foreign films DVD section, Nordic Noir now has a much greater cultural presence. It’s profile is currently strong enough for commissioning editors to be confident that the publishing an image of a Scandinavian actor on the front cover of the Radio Times or a weekend newspaper supplement will promote whatever series is being trailed, not impact upon sales figures, and may encourage fans who otherwise may not have purchased the title to buy additional copies for archiving amongst their private collection of memorabilia. Supermarket chains, famed for their reticence to stock unprofitable brands, routinely sell Scandinavian fiction at heavily discounted prices and frequently give the books a prominent place within its fiction departments

Further evidence of the sub genre’s absorption into the mainstream was provided by a screening of the final episode of Borgen‘s second season at the Edinburgh Playhouse accompanied by a question and answer session with the lead actor. The event proved to be more popular than was initially anticipated, leading to further sessions being arranged to cater for those who wanted to attend the event but thought they might not be able to due initial plans for a single event underestimating the high number of fans that were willing to travel great distances for the experience of seeing an episode on the big screen, quizzing a member of the cast, and finally meeting those with whom they’ve celebrated and debated the series on Twitter or Facebook. This fan gathering generated a surprisingly level of coverage from media organizations. In a break from an already overloaded schedule fielding questions from enthusiasts, accepting an absolutely amazing fan made calendar, and holding a brief private audience with a prominent Scottish politician Sidse Babett Knudsen was invited by the BBC and Sky to appear on news programmes.

No doubt feeling validated that the event in Edinburgh was successful in terms of promoting the show, Nordic Noir as a brand, and its accompanying fandom Arrow Films capitalized on both the attendant media coverage and its core customer base feeling bereft after relatively recent season finales of The Killing and Borgen by releasing Above the Street, Below the Water. Using this particular title, alongside Unit One, to kick start what promises to be a thoroughly rewarding year in terms of new productions and the distribution of those shows which might otherwise have slipped under the radar is both an award to long term fans that have followed this range since its emergence a few years ago and a play upon the theme of spectatorship that is very cleverly woven into the script’s spine. Fans who have remained loyal to Nordic Noir, both as a subgenre and brand, finally have the opportunity to buy a movie which invites the viewers to draw from their stored knowledge of Scandinavian film and TV series and engage in the activity of “actor spotting”.

The discovery of archival content which had previously not been made available in the UK and its subsequent distribution has been central to the formation and maintenance of several fandoms. Autobiographical and ethnographic accounts from members of a number of musical subcultures including Northern Soul and Rockabilly have suggested that in the group’s embryonic stages the recovery, exhibition, and rehabilitation of previously unavailable items ranked equal in importance to the consumption of new material as it enabled fans to engage in critical dialogue with each other thereby assisting in the formation of group identity and facilitating participants being able to establish a provisional consensus regarding generic parameters.

Whilst Nordic Noir already existed as discrete cinematic, televisual and literary forms long before UK audiences were first exposed to Jo Nesbo, The Killing and Yellow Bird’s adaptation of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, obtaining information of the key developments within the movement has until now been compromised by insufficient data being made available to English speaking readers about titles that whilst hugely influential within a Scandinavian context have not been distributed in other territories. The publication of Barry Forshaw’s Nordic Noir represents the first attempt by a mainstream imprint to provide a historical and critical overview of the sub genre’s antecedents, cultural influences, political subtexts, gender representations, and possible explanations for the phenomenal sales figures which have repeatedly defied industry expectations. Subtitled The Pocket Essential Guide To Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV, this is a comprehensive work of reference that aficionados will return to repeatedly in order to enhance their knowledge of a particular book, author, film or TV show.

In the introductory section, Forshaw addresses with refreshing honesty the problematic notion of being designated as an expert in any given field, how he has acquired his knowledge and what he wants readers to do with the information in the book. As a long time editor of Crime Time and author of several non fiction titles, including a sterling biography of Steig Larsson, Forshaw has been acquainted with Scandivian fiction for several decades. The roles of media professional and fan are not mutually exclusive and throughout the text Forshaw writes as an enthusiast keen to share his discoveries in the hope that readers might feel sufficiently enticed to order some of the tiles he has recommended.

As this remarkable example of scholarship reminds us, Nordic Noir didn’t arrive on our shores as a fully formed sub generic movement. The earliest titles available to UK readers were appreciated as competently written crime novels and possibly early critical commentary may have primarily focused on the left leaning political subtext that was prevalent in those books. Scandinavian fiction, as a marketing brand, didn’t exist back then and titles were lumped in with other foreign authors but received less critical praise or sales figures that were awarded to, for instance, Georges Simenon.

Intriguingly, Forshaw’s historical overview references authors and stylistic approaches which were prevalent before Sjöwall and Wahlöö embarked on their influential ten book series.

Wherever possible the author enhances his analysis with appropriate use of interview extracts culled from his many years of researching and writing about crime fiction. This enables the reader to become better acquainted with the cited writer’s working methods, life history, and individual approaches to the movement.

With regards individual authors, Larsson, Nesbo, Sjöwall and Wahlöö are the big hitters in terms of sales and influence and whilst they are accorded the greatest scrutiny Forshaw’s encompassing and celebratory investigation references many lesser known writers.

That a free to air broadcaster would regularly devote two hours each Saturday evening for the screening of a foreign language series would once upon a time have been classed as ratings suicide and yet BBC4 has shown that imported subtitled content can be viable in terms of audience viewing figures and the appreciation index. Similarly, Arrow Films DVD range has been successful enough to warrant the licensing of several titles not currently scheduled for UK TV transmission and has also been awarded with a vibrant and critically aware online fan community. This is essentially a second wave of Nordic Noir that feeds from and back into the literary strand. Several notable films and TV series are analysed by Forshaw, including, but not exclusively, Borgen, The Killing, Wallander. An appreciation of these series is balanced with behind the scenes information some of which may surprise even the most knowledgeable of aficionados.

One thing the book does incredibly well is to draw attention to generic inflexions or cultural cues that the reader might have missed out on when they last read a specific book or watched a particular film and TV series. Armed with this new information the reader might want to go back and devour these titles all over again but with an enhanced perspective.

Closing with a section on names to watch out for over the coming months and years one can’t help but wish for this excellent text to be updated at regular intervals so as to accommodate new perspectives on the subgenre that occur following the release of each book or DVD from Arrow Films.

Nordic Noir – The Pocket Essential Guide To Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV is published by Pocket Essentials.

Death of a Pilgrim (En pilgrims död)

 

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On a February night in 1986, the Swedish Prime Minister and his wife were walking home, without bodyguard protection, after seeing a film at a cinema when a lone gunman appeared. Olof Palme was fatally wounded and at the time of writing, no one has been successfully convicted for his assassination.

To coincide with the twenty-seventh anniversary of Palme’s murder Swedish police launched a helpline that members of the public could phone if they had any information which would help in the ongoing criminal investigation. Early estimates suggest that at least a hundred calls were made and some new facts were presented to the police but it remains too soon to state with any certainty if this will result in any arrests being made.

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With death Palme becomes an ever-present presence in the modern Swedish consciousness, a proverbial ghost always seated at the table. In tandem with an appreciation of his political legacy, his supporters and detractors have speculated on what he might have achieved had be not been slain. In his lifetime he was a prominent figure within the European Social Democrat movement and recognition of his achievements continues to the present day, not just in Sweden as exemplified by Ed Milliband’s recent reappraisal of Palme; “He was an extraordinary leader, an incredibly successful leader of Sweden. Someone who gave a huge inspiration to so many Social Democrats not just around Europe, but around the world, with an incredible vision of a more equitable society, a more equitable form of capitalism. He is an inspiration for us in Britain.”

Without an arrest or a known motive, a plethora of conspiracy theories about who was responsible for the killing have been discussed, analysed, and contested in ordinary day-to-day conversation and within books, films, radio, and TV programming. Adding to the debate of possible institutional complicity is SVT’s 2013 adaptation of Leif G. W. Persson’s trilogy; Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s Cold, Another Time, Another Life, and Falling Freely, as in a Dream.

Starring Rolf Lassgård, En pilgrims död is a four part mini-series directed by Kristian Petri and Kristoffer Nyholm from a screenplay by Sara Heldt and Johan Widerberg. The series is set within two time periods; 1985 and the present day.

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Following an informal discussion with a superior officer, Lars Martin Johansson ( Rolf Lassgård) sets up an informal investigation into Palme’s murder that runs parallel to, but is independent from, the official investigation. Johansson’s largely self-imposed parameters are to explore the historical documents within the police archive to assess if all data was recorded and interpreted correctly and to see if his own personal inaction may have inadvertently led to Palme’s death or the killer being able to evade justice.

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The police service of 1985 is riddled with corruption and fascist sympathisers. From top to bottom the force is tainted by the stench of improper activities. With no checks or balances, the police can act as they please and frequently do just so long as the thin veneer of public respectability is maintained. Rumours about senior colleagues once heard are denied and false alibis are constructed for officers suspected of illegal activity. Johansson might be good at his job but he commands very little respect from his colleagues, his sociopathic approach to interrogating suspects is used to make the viewers aware of how very different modern police methods are from those employed in the 1980s; an early scene features Johansson tormenting a suspect by supplying him with details of his father’s death.

As the months fly away and we head towards that tragic night upon which Olof Palme died we, as viewers, are passive observers to a police force so paranoid that the Prime Minister may be a covert Soviet Agent that it will commit murder in order to obtain a manuscript which may confirm its fears.

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Despite some minor anachronisms, specifically with regards 1980s male fashions this series succeeds in selling the era to the viewer and resists the all too obvious temptation to dress the cast in pastel suits and espadrilles whilst a soundtrack of Nik Kershaw and Frankie Goes to Hollywood ramps up the action. The period clothing is very somber and the kitsch cultural references are reserved for the present day sequences. Demis Roussos’ Forever and Ever is used specifically as an ironic counterpoint to a particular moment of the story which adds a new layer of meaning to the track in a manner reminiscent to how Lynch employed Roy Orbison’s In Dreams within the movie Blue Velvet.

This is an exceedingly well-made series. Prior knowledge of Swedish political history is not a prerequisite for viewing, all the relevant information is relayed wherever it is necessary for an understanding of the plot and the use of appropriate archive material enhances the sense of verisimilitude. After several episodes containing discussion about Palme both as a man and a politician the moment when the assassination happens is far more emotionally potent than I had anticipated and in addition to forcing me to continue watching on the edge of my seat to see what conclusions the series would make it also led to me being actively interested in reading about this period in Swedish history.

Death of a Pilgrim is available to order from Amazon.

For further information of Palme’s assassination and the effect it has had on Swedish crime fiction the best place to start are two superbly researched blog posts by Vicky Albritton;

http://nordicnoir.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/olof-palme/

http://nordicnoir.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/new-lead-olof-palme-assassination/

Leif G. W. Persson’s trilogy is available to buy from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Between-Summers-Longing-Winters-End/dp/0552774685/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362419199&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Time-Life-ebook/dp/B007BLO4D0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362419257&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Free-Falling-If-Dream-Story/dp/0307377474/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362419315&sr=8-1

Details on Ed Milliband’s speech about Olaf Palme can be found here;

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-21/miliband-sees-vision-for-labour-u-k-in-scandinavian-snow.html