OldVenue, TV

Why TV isn’t Eurosceptic

Nordic noir has become a staple in British television. European television dramas such as The Killing, The Bridge, and Real Humans have proved hugely popular across the world. These ground breaking TV shows have also influenced writers and screenwriters alike far beyond the Scandinavian Peninsula. But we must ask ourselves why these Scandi-dramas are so popular.

Remaking of these shows in both the UK and the US suggests that the popular trend of Nordic noir and Scandinavian drama is far from over. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and Henning Mankell’s Wallander franchise broadcasted the pictorial vernacular that completely redefined our impression of the noir aesthetic.

The Killing, set in Copenhagen, revolves around Detective inspector Sarah Lund and her team, following the murder case day-by-day. The series is noted for its incredible plot twists, season-long storylines, and dark tone. What makes this series unique is that it also follows the stories of the murdered victim’s family and the varying results in the political circles alongside the police investigation. The Killing took a whole twenty episodes to solve one murder, which is unusual for a UK production. The Killing has since been singled out for the acting ability of the cast and atmospheric filming locations.

Other shows that have garnered noteworthy critical acclaim include Borgen and The Bridge. They are both visually stunning, and will likely join the ranks of cult television series. An element to the success of these shows are the complicated and multi-layered narratives. Throughout the episodes they present the imperfect antiheroes in a stark and honest way.

English language remakes of these European drams have also become increasingly popular. Kenneth Branagh’s role as the pensive detective in Wallander in 2008 was remarkably successful. Success also followed The Killing, winning an International Emmy and subsequently a US remake in 2011. Following closely on their heels was the remake of the Swedish drama Real Humans, as the recent Channel 4 drama, Humans. However, Lars Lundstrom, the creator of the original, says he’s ‘disappointed’ that British viewers first taste of the series will be an Anglo-American adaptation, rather than the original.

Another remake is now in the works, this time of the Norwegian crime drama Mammon. This series follows journalist Peter Veras who becomes trapped in a web of deceit and duplicity, whilst investigating an embezzlement scandal that connects Norway to serious political disgrace.

The remakes of these popular European dramas have changed certain plot lines to fit the new locations; The Bridge was remade as The Tunnel in the UK, with a corpse being discovered in the Channel Tunnel. However, they did endeavour to keep both the plot and characters as true to the original series as possible, including the socially awkward French detective Elise Wassermann, played by Clémence Poésy.

Remakes are not the only extension of Nordic noir influences. New series Fortitude, being filmed by Sky has been described as possessing ‘a lot of Scandinavian DNA’. The Fall’s lead character was seemingly inspired by The Killing’s Sarah Lund.

Other series that seem to possess a certain Nordic essence is BBC Three’s In The Flesh with the aesthetic like that of The Bridge. Even the successful Broadchurch’s lingering, and at times disturbing music was by an Icelandic composer, Olafur Arnalds. The music was very much providing a narrative all of its own. Soundtracks are incredibly important in these European dramas, with the unnerving soundtrack for the supernatural French drama The Returned very much embodying the essence of the creepy atmosphere.

Nordic noir has undoubtedly captured the imagination of people all around the world. Maybe it’s the music, or maybe the superb acting and the atmospheric locations that haunt its audiences. But, it does seem as if serialised narratives with twists and turns are back for good. After all, in the time of Charles Dickens, they were in high demand.


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August 2022
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