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Even more newvian

Hello beautiful human. Yes, it is true that I often feel, especially early in the morning when I stare bleakly at the screen with the bleary eyes of the restless non-sleeper, that I am an alien from some other place in the universe who somehow got stranded here on Earth, and that my task (which I have had to accept regardless of what the dude* in Mission Impossible had to say about it) is to schmooze with this planet’s inhabitants, meaning that I am doing a terrible job so may as well get started afresh with a well-deserved compliment. I hope you are doing very well indeed.

Anyway it is a fresh morning in the small town in New Zealand where I live. It is a very nice town that was originally settled by Scandinavians from Norway, Denmark and Sweden though there have been plenty of others jostling for their place in the community history and consciousness, among them the alien! It is a coincidence that I have settled here and that I am a fan of “Scandi” film and television, but it is a nice coincidence. A recent post in this blog was about The Killing, a Danish “noir” series that had three seasons. After finishing that harrowing excursion into the genre, I picked up almost by accident The Bridge, a Swedish-Danish co-production.

The Bridge has had three seasons and its creators promise a fourth, to be released next year. There will be endless elaborations in other countries – there has already been an American spin-off – of the adventures of Swedish detective Saga Noren and a Danish counterpart as the usual line of Scandinastian villain does ever more horrific things to a string of victims who surely, whatever their faults, did not deserve to be treated in that way.

Like The Killing, the storyline of The Bridge is mind-bogglingly elaborate, full of herrings red and otherwise. It may or may not be a sign of my own incisive mind that I picked the villain out from the lineup on first appearance, just like that.

Whodunnit is not, however, what is attractive about this series. Nor is the ever more inventive gore. Saga Noren steals the show, taking The Killing‘s Sarah Lund-style fractured personality and developing it into the most deeply read and sensitively realised portrayal I have ever seen. The Bridge might not be television as it ought to be, but it is nonetheless better not only than The Killing, but also the Swedish Wallander.

Arguably this is the result of the extended development of Noren’s personality. My usual complaints of TV series are present in The Bridge – the apparent need (presumably financial at root) to have a template that is repeated each episode may begin as something eye-catching and even heart-clutching, but after a few instalments is merely irritating.

What is amazing about Noren is the development of a personality that at the outset is already extremely intense. The actress portraying her, Sofia Helin, has said that the character she has brought to life so tellingly is autistic in some unspecified way. Noren is fascinating, and it is a tribute to the actress and to the producers that the character can not only be individual and well portrayed but change and develop through 30 episodes. As her relations with those around her become increasingly complex and the pressure goes on, her responses are heart-wrenching. One can imagine the whole of humanity, plus one alien, cheering her on.

The Killing ended ambiguously (sorry, no spoiler) and the fourth series of The Bridge may follow suit but  I hope it doesn’t. Saga! Triumph over all! We are on your side!

*The man who told the star, Peter Graves, that the tape would self-destruct in five seconds. Graves had a choice, though it seems he always accepted the challenge. See however “You don’t wait ages for a post, and then. . .” on this blog, wearing if you feel the need a tinfoil hat.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Scandinewvian

Hi there. It’s a time when many people eat too much, drink too much, and are miserable for lots of other reasons too. If this is you, I really am very sorry and hope things improve soon. You can console yourself with the thought that this occasion only comes once a year.

I’m no expert, but the occasion of this occasion is the birth of someone who remarked that he brought “not peace but the sword”. He went on to give some unpleasant details about this, and how right he has been proved! The “Prince of Peace” said he wasn’t, straight out, but for some reason people keep wanting to not believe it.

It is true that we don’t have to think like this. We don’t need to feel that we’ve got to get down with the swordplay, and that makes it our own doing, that we go on  doing terrible things. It’s our fault – all sides. We really can do something about it, if we want to.

This year, 2016, is about to conclude, and it won’t be back. Good.

While it’s been unraveling before my astonished gaze, I’ve been watching a Danish “noir” television series, The Killing. This had three seasons and I’ve brought the lot on DVD after seeing the final ten-part epic.

Generally I don’t watch television – see my blog post, “Scandinoirvian nights”. But like the Swedish police thriller Wallander, The Killing lifted television beyond its limitations to reach the standard of fine film-making – just. Television’s self-imposed limitations are present in The Killing, especially the apparent need to follow a template – each episode repeats the format so that by the end of the second installment the structure is an obstruction, artifice standing squarely in the way of art: the same music at the same place, the way the opening is interfaced with credits, etc. A film doesn’t have to succumb to this allure, though “franchises” inevitably face the same dilemma – witness the “Indiana Jones” spinoffs, or Star Wars, or James Bond: the very qualities that make the first take  a success, tend to render successors trivial. These challenges to film are however splattered all over television series as if they are de rigeur, and it’s not pretty.

Despite this, The Killing is worth watching. It is unlike Wallander in that the episodes are not complete in themselves; each of the three series needs to be seen entire. Fortunately the template was tweaked for each and the last series – which your unworthy correspondent saw first – is better than the first.

The Killing has a lot to say, but it is not always clear whether it means to say it. The series focused on a police homicide detective, Sarah Lund, who was the only woman on the squad. The acrress portraying her, Sophie Grabol, said that initially she had a hard time working out Lund’s personality, but when she realised the character was a man in a woman’s body, it became easier.

The brains behind the series, Soren Sveistrup, might or might not have enjoyed this characterisation. Certainly Lund is a fractured person with an intensity of focus that rattles her colleagues; once the bit is between her teeth she doesn’t let up, even when she is suspended. She is a genius at solving horrific murders, sees things others miss, and is thus invaluable. . .but. . .well, I’m not going to offer any spoilers here.

The series succeeds despite its limitations. If it is to be believed, Denmark is a festering sinkhole of envy, intrigue and corruption – still rotten despite Hamlet’s stable cleansing efforts all those centuries ago. The police force is not only not exempt, but also so flagrantly incompetent it is a wonder any crimes are ever solved, leaping to conclusion after conclusion in the rush to get a conviction. Innocent suspects are dragged into the station to be verbally abused and often have their lives ruined, to be replaced by other innocent suspects, while the police officers spend a lot of time blaming and talking past each other, when not ordering someone else to do something. Meanwhile, victims’ families’ lives are torn apart, politicians are dragged into the affair, while the culprit’s machinations suggest that Hamlet’s* ability to concoct and carry out an involved plan behind a facade was not a one-off and may even be a Danish character trait.

So Sarah Lund succeeds in a man’s world by being more than a man, and it is hard on her psyche. This says something, and for those of you who have followed this blog, you will know what I think, or if you don’t, try “Grand Larssony” and “Toiling with Troilus”. We are talking epochal realignments here, true progress – or not.

Scandinoirvian crime depiction is gruesome. Both Wallander and this series feature murders ranging from draining the blood of the victim while still conscious, torture and dismemberment, to the most brutal rapes and beyond. That the true focus lies in the human relationships of the series verges on contradiction, but ultimately that is the underlying point, and it is a political one, whether authors mean it or not. Certainly Henning Mankell, the man behind Wallander, was a “leftist” radical, and Millennium trilogy author Stieg Larsson’s politics were also well out there.

All this blood and guts and tension, and the year we are finishing up has included a new word imported from Danish into English: “hygge”, which means a kind of comfort that one finds in mug of tea and a blanket on a cold night, especially when shared with loved ones. In Norwegian the concept is given a name that is a semi-cognate of our “cosy”.

The murderers may go out and do despicable things before heading home for a quiet cuppa and a nuzzle with someone dear.

Hopefully this isn’t you, dear reader. Please enjoy this time, and head into 2017 with hope in your heart, a smile on your beautiful lips, and a song in your throat ready to greet the world.

 

*It has always seemed to me that Hamlet has been unfairly maligned for his supposed inability to act. On the contrary he was plainly a genius who overcame many obstacles to avenge the murder of his father and clean up a corrupt regime, though he was thwarted and died in the attempt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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