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

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Blood-Intercrime-thriller-ebook/dp/B00CQ1D50I/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1 Image

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Arne Dahl: The Blinded Man Part One

Bild aus: Arne Dahl: Misterioso

As an experiment this review has been written whilst the episode aired on BBC4. Aside from proofreading to edit any grammatical errors no further changes have been made to the content.

Although his published credits dates back to 1990, it is with the 1998 printing of Misterioso that Jan Arnald embarked upon a critically and commercially successful career as a crime novelist which would run in parallel with his literary criticism and journalistic output. The use of multiple identities (Jan Arnold and the pseudonym Arne Dahl) is not a secret known only to a privileged few within media circles but enables the author and his publisher to issue titles to specific audiences without fear that a fan of one specific mode of writing will not feel aggrieved should they accidentally purchase a title that they would not ordinarily consider reading.

It is under the pen name Arne Dahl that Arnald has enjoyed his most significant marketplace penetration. Over a ten year period Arnald authored a series of crime novels about a division within CID that is alternatively referred to as the A team or Intercrime. Individual members of this team are recruited on the basis of research specialisms, career record, and biographical information which may be pertinent to a specific investigation. Whilst Arnald’s Intercrime novels have already been translated into several languages, including English, a set of new editions is to shortly be issued at regular intervals via Vintage Books. Am unable to ascertain if the reprints will employ the same translation as previous editions or if the publisher has commissioned a fresh conversion. However, in line with the TV adaptations that have been brought to us courtesy of the BBC and Arrow Films the first book, Misterioso, has been rebranded as The Blinded Man. Although ten books were written as part of Arnald’s Intecrime series this TV adaptation is sourced from the first five. Each book is spread across two ninety minute episodes. That the source of narrative tension is resolved within the space of three hours creates a very different viewing dynamic to that which enthusiasts have reported experiencing when watching The Killing or The Bridge but alternatively might facilitate new modes of appreciation amongst fans of Nordic TV.

The Intercrime division is tasked with investigating new breeds of criminality that have emerged in Sweden since the assassination of Olef Palme. In terms of lawlessness as a social development, the ever changing relationship with former Soviet states with regards judicial courses of action and the ease with which relaxed borders enable the importation of illegal practices is a central theme found in many examples of contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction and due to the nature of the illegal activity contained in this opening episode its inclusion is simultaneously inevitable, edifying, and gratifying.

A serial killer is targeting wealthy businessmen and in this première installment the police must gather evidence to ascertain any potential connections between the deceased, prevent further murders from taking place, explore all possible motives that might have triggered this wave of assassinations, and catch the executioner. Although billed as a series revolving around an ensemble cast, the first episode primarily focuses on Paul Hjelm (Shanti Roney), a police officer whose entire career is jeopardized when he implements what he feels is to be a socially responsible method of ending a hostage crises. One that enables the captor to live, albeit wounded by gunshot, and for his family to evade deportation. Whilst being interviewed by an internal investigation team he is head-hunted by Jenny Hultin (Irene Lindl) on the basis of his previous exemplary career record. The appointment to the A-team is provisional and Hjelm is warned that it might be terminated at any moment should the internal investigation find he is guilty of unprofessional conduct. As is the norm with TV detectives Hjelm’s devotion to upholding the law means his private life suffers. He displays a highly developed level of sympathy when interviewing the surviving victim of a sexual attack and later on when encountering the grief deranged brother of another victim who was so traumatized by the experience that she took her own life. This ability to empathize with others and alleviate their distress doesn’t translate into the home context. Hjelm’s life partner is made to worry unnecessarily about his career for several hours due to his not accepting her telephone calls.

Although Hjelm is the primary identification figure that enables the viewer to access the fictional world contained within the narrative biographical information concerning other members of the team is relayed primarily in the form of dramatic action as opposed to expository dialogue. For instance, the precarious balance between domestic and professional duties is exemplified in a scene in which Arto Söderstedt (Niklas Åkerfelt) is eager to reach his workplace but in attempting to deliver his children to the school he manages to drive off leaving a son behind.

In the latter moments of the episode the televisual canvas broadens as Viggo Norlander (Claes Ljungmark) travels to Talinn, Estonia to investigate a potential lead concerning a Russian mafia organization. In the final minutes of this sequence the occasional references to mythological belief systems that have up until now been loosely threaded suddenly function as foreshadowing. in the course of ninety minutes we’ve been treated to explanations of various elements of historical Nordic belief systems and the episode closes with a re-enactment of the crucifixion narrative paralleled with a team member engaged in a worshipful act, choir singing.

Within a very packed ninety minutes this first episode covers a tremendous amount of story information. A number of tropes present in other Nordic Noir shows we have seen over the last few years are present; threats against the feminine, distaste for excessive capitalism, issues surrounding immigration, and policing as destructive to the family unit. However, at present aside from Hjelm I’m left with a nagging feeling that I don’t know the other characters well enough to sympathize with them but this may change in the coming weeks as I get better acquainted with Arnald’s fictional world.

Arne Dahl is available to pre-order on DVD:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00C7Q25EO/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_ediyrb0DJJK91

The book of The Blinded Man is available to buy from Amazon and all other booksellers;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blinded-Man-first-Intercrime-thriller/dp/009957568X/ref=la_B003ZDK4LY_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365285453&sr=1-1

For further information on Arne Dahl and Scandinavian fiction Barry Forshaw’s book Nordic Noir – Pocket Essentials is the best place to start;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nordic-Pocket-Essentials-Barry-Forshaw/dp/1842439871/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365285493&sr=1-1&keywords=barry+forshaw