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Posts tagged ‘Malmo’

“The Bridge” Mhz International Mysteries, Saving the Best for Last

BridgeChristian HilborgBridge 2I’ve been saving the best of the MHz International Mysteries for last, and it’s a humdinger, a nail-biter and as gripping as any James Bond thriller (and much more gory). It’s “The Bridge” or “Bron/Bronen”, a Swedish/Danish TV series that is now in its third season with no signs of stopping.

I’ve just finished the terr-rific first season and I can recommend it whole-heartedly for those of you who like the Steig Larson-ish take on modern Sweden, and in this case, too, modern Denmark.

It’s premise is intriguing and it is built around the gigantic Oresund bridge that now connects the Southern most tip of Sweden with Copenhagen. The Bridge is used as a symbol throughout as a bridge of understanding between the two Scandinavian countries. And also of crime-solving.

You see, a corpse of a woman has been found placed exactly on the demarcation line between the two countries during a black-out on The Bridge of the title. Since the dead woman is positioned exactly on the boundary(and she also turns out to be actually two halves of TWO dead women) both Swedish and Danish police have to be involved in this case that is truly an International Mystery. And neither likes or wants to be involved with the other! Typically, a Nordic dilemma, that is played out quite, quite entertainingly.

Sweden of course is represented by a beautiful blonde named Saga, played with great conviction and skill by Sofia Helin. Saga is almost robotic in the way that she treats crime and crime-solving and her personal life, too. “We have sex now?” she states almost mechanically when a guy approaches her in a bar. She doesn’t mince words, does Saga.

And she is known for blurting out the most intimate details of her own and her colleagues personal lives at the most inopportune moments, usually at staff meetings. It is to Sofia Helin’s credit that she makes the character of Saga continually believable and also trustworthy.

Her Danish counterpart is the much older Danish Police inspector Martin Rohde, who is always unshaven, looks like a rumpled, unmade bed, and frankly can’t stand working with Saga, whom he finds incredibly irritating. Saga feels she is always right and Martin hates to admit that she is. He is played marvelously by Danish character actor Kim Bodnia. Saga and Martin are like Beauty and the Beast. And Bodnia reminded me of the late, great James Gandolfini. But this time he’s a hard-working cop, not a criminal.

The series is in Swedish AND Danish and is constantly flipping back and forth between the two languages neither of which I speak. Danish and the Danes as a whole seem funkier and more guttural, more working class, if you will, than the high-brow Saga and the Swedes.

But they make for a VERY interesting crime=stopping couple, and in that sense “The Bridge” is quite character-driven, which I liked.

The crimes are horrific, too. The upper half of the torso of the first corpse(and there will be many of them as the series progresses) is a Swedish diplomat and politician. The lower Danish half is an unknown prostitute/drug- addict. Immediately, the dramatic dichotomy between the two countries is set up right at the get go.

One of the more ghastly murders takes places on TV sets in both countries as a gagged and bound-in-a-chair homeless man is slowing being bled to death on International TV by the murderer..

And there are other colorful characters who come and go throughout the episodes. Main among them was the  smarmy journalist Daniel Ferbe played by the charismatic Christian Hillborg(pictured above^) The murderer sets up contact with him early on, as the criminal mastermind behind all these killings is also trying to use Ferbe as a way to get his message about Swedish(and Danish) societal wrongs out via the media.

This first season was filmed and aired in 2011. I can’t wait for Series 2 and 3. Stay tuned! Love that Swedish noir! Or in this case I should say Scandinavian noir, since “The Bridge” involves both countries marvelously.

“Wallander 3” World-Weary & Wonderful on MHz

I have to confess that I am coming late to the Wallander party. Wallander, the character, the novels, the many, many TV films in Swedish and also in BBC English with Kenneth Branagh, no less, is more than a cottage industry. It’s pretty much a world-wide phenomenon.  After the early, tragic death of Swedish author Steig Larsson of the Millennium Trilogy, another Swedish crime novel author has emerged on the Swedish crime stage and  has survived and thrived to 66 . He is Henning Mankell and he has written a mountainous number of books, on Wallander and many other topics,  and is more than taking his place, in Sweden and in the world.

The super-quaint,  little medieval town of Ystaad, where Wallander is set and shot, has become a tourist destination! And Kurt Wallander, his world-weary, potato-like, sad sack of a Swedish detective, is underplayed in this series quite brilliantly by Krister Hendrickson,  and is almost as famous as a Swedish fictional character as Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” anti-heroine to end all anti-heroines.

Wallander (pronouced Val’-en-da) couldn’t be more different. He’s so every day, so every man, so ordinary, he’s almost invisible. But he has also taken hold of the world’s imagination, and its’ thirst for all things Swedish. That gloomy morose desire to suffer in the cold and ice was mightily filled in his lifetime by legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

To my dismay, the younger generation does not take to Bergman or even know his work. If they know anything of Swedish note today, besides Ikea, it is Lisbeth Salander, and the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” And also, right behind her is Kurt Wallander.

Larson was said to have devoured Swedish crime novels and one of the authors he was most influenced by was the prolific Henning Mankell. Who wrote more Wallander books and many other books, than Larsson ever did in his brief life-time.

Larsson, and the “Girl’ movies and books have whetted the public’s appetite seemingly for Swedish noir crime. In fact, I was shocked when I went to the main library in Manhattan and found out the nothing of Wallander, DVD, film or novel was in. All were checked out, but one, which I hungrily grabbed.

The female librarian said to me “Wallander is VERY popular.” The Vox Populi! The people have spoken.

In Mankell’s “The Man Who Laughed,” there is this passage that jumped out at me.

A solitary man, presumably Wallander himself, is driving down a lonely Swedish road at night, and feels a bump. He has hit a rabbit.

“He stopped and got out. The hare was lying on the road, its’ back legs kicking. But its’ eyes stared at him….He had never forgotten those eyes and the wildly kicking legs. The memory kept coming back again and again , usually at the most unexpected times…”

That’s a very good metaphor indeed. With a kind of awful poetry that Steig Larsson’s “just the facts” Milleninum writings eschews.

I think it’s this richness of the source material, Mankell’s writing, that lifts Wallander out of the realm of the ordinary procedural, though police crime drama is what it is.

The Swedish TV series, now available in the US on MHz DVDS,  is produced by the same company that produced the “Dragon Tattoo” movies. And it shows. Those films and the Wallander TV series echo each other, not just in their topics, human trafficking, arson, pedophilia, and of course, drugs, but in their doomy Swedish atmospheres.

Wallander is the essence of the plodding policeman, who doesn’t always get it write, in the opening episode, he gets so drunk, he leaves his police gun at a bar, and is suspended, until the Ystad police find out they can’t solve a crime without him.

The terrific Krister Hendrickson makes him so endearing a chap, I can’t imagine anyone else playing him. Especially not Kenneth ham-is-my-middle-name Branagh. But we’ll see.

And sometimes this season hits it right out of the ballpark in terms of impact. One episode “The Arsonist” particularly got to me. So well done and well acted and well shot by all parties. It was gripping and the ending chilling. Bravo to Episode 5! Wallander’s pen-ultimate case.

And you better enjoy Hendrickson’s Wallander while you can, because in the last episode,  #6 in this series, “A Troubled Man,” he gets Alzheimer’s. What American series would risk that? The central figure losing it to a disease that no one ever seems to suffer from on American series television. Hendrickson becomes increasingly forgetful and lost. He gets suspended (Again!) by the Ystaad crime unit.

His daughter, Linda, a cop herself, and also a devoted mother, with a small daughter who Wallander dotes on, is marvelously played with degrees and shadings of sympathy and strength and frustrated horror by Carlotta Johnson, as she begins to notice that Kurt, her father, is getting absent-minded and gradually slipping away.

As early as episode one, “The Troubled Man”(like for instance the forgetting the gun in the bar) and culminates with him wandering the streets of picturesque small town Ystaad with his shoes untied, not knowing where he is, in “The Man Who Wept,” who is ironically is the melancholy Wallander himself. And yes, in a climatic moment, Wallander cries. The series has built so carefully to this, it’s shattering.

Shakespeare  explored this same disease in “King Lear,” which I found myself seeing right in the middle of my Wallander binge-watching.

Dementia has always been with us as a disease and a topic and continues to be the unnerving presence that turns into an absence as we watch the sun sadly set on Kurt Wallender.

Don’t miss this Swedish series! You’ll find it hard to forget, and you’ll be hooked on all of Henning Mankell’s work, too! Just like Steig Larsson was, and half the world it seems is!

 

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