The Bridge

As I suggested in my previous post, I have started watching ‘The Bridge’, a Swedish/Danish co-produced detective series.

The basic set-up is that a body is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge, which links the Danish capital Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmö. In fact, the body is found right on the dividing line between the two countries’ jurisdictions, and matters are complicated further when forensics go to move the body and find that it is actually the legs of one woman arranged beneath the torso of a different woman. To seal the deal and ensure that the Danish and Swedish police forces are both involved, one woman was Swedish and the other Danish.

This bizarre premise sets up what looks to be unfolding into a fairly standard serial-killer-with-a-grudge-about-certain-social-issues story (his initial point is that we aren’t all equal before the law – the Danish victim was a prostitute and when she went missing the investigation was shelved after a fortnight, and he posits the theory that the investigation into the Swedish woman’s murder won’t end s quickly as she is a politician and so in the public eye).

However, the story isn’t really what prompted me to blog. The visual style of the show is very distinctive and reminds me of the BBC’s production of the Wallander series and also something else, and I can’t quite remember what. The vast majority of the action happens at night, but rather than being dark the areas are lit by the harsh artificial glow of streetlights and neon signs. It is often the case that the only thing moving on screen is the scene’s main characters, and the sound has been altered so that often there is no background noise other than that made by the actions of the characters, giving the whole thing a disturbed, dreamlike quality. It is also preoccupied with showing the less attractive areas of Copenhagen and Malmö. This, combined with the washed-out palette lends a feeling not so much of despair but more disappointment or disillusionment to the proceedings, as if it isn’t just the colours that have faded, but hope too.

Finally, the Swedish detective Saga Noren (the blonde lady in the picture) is as nutty as a fruitcake. I honestly have no idea how she got through any form of psychological screening to become a police officer. Her behaviour is truly eccentric; she is blunt beyond the point of rudeness, utterly selfish and inconsiderate and seems completely unaware of the social norms (twice in the first episode she strips down to her bra to change her top, both times in the middle of conversations with her boss or her new partner as if nothing could be more normal).

There is also a sequence involving her which goes something like this:

Scene 1:

[Saga is wandering around her flat reading a large book entitled ‘Equality Before The Law’ or something similar. She pauses, puts her hand down her trousers and smiles.]

Scene 2:

[Saga walks into a bar. Makes eye contact with Handsome Chappy across the bar. He walks over.]

HC: Are you waiting for someone?

SN: No.

HC: Can I buy you a drink?

SN: No

[HC walks back to his original position, turns his back on SN and has a drink. SN waits a couple of seconds, clearly confused and then follows him.]

SN: Why did you walk away? [pause] I just didn’t want you to buy me a drink.

HC: [puzzled] OK….

SN: Would you like to have sex with me back at my flat?

HC: [pleasantly confused] Yes, definitely.

[They leave]

Scene 3:

SN and HC are having sex. They finish. She rolls over, turning her back on HC and taking 99% of the duvet with her, all without saying a word, and promptly dozes off. HC is understandably confused.

A few minutes later, HC has dozed off, and SN wakes up. She seems a little surprised to find HC in bed next to her, promptly removes his arm from her shoulders and gets up, fires up her laptop and starts browsing through the autopsy findings which were given to her on CD earlier.

Unfortunately, I have only managed to get the first three episodes on iPlayer, so the third will determine whether or not I invest in the DVD. There are only ten episodes, and with the DVD costing £25 online at the moment, it’s one which will have to wait if I decide to continue with doolally detectives and sleazy Scandinavia.


4 thoughts on “The Bridge

  1. Hello Phil, purveyor of Danish television!

    The Killing

    I’ve heard a lot about this as it won a lot of praise, but what is so good about it in particular. I agree with you I prefer the long running dramas to cover a set story over a period of time rather than a series of small contained stories, but this can sometimes lead to forced ‘cliffhanger’ endings at the end of the hour to creative tension, but can sometimes seem forced.

    The Bridge

    I agree the premise does sound like something rather standard dreamt up as the hook rather than necessarily a convincing narrative, but I would be jumping to conclusions to assume the worst from that premise. I watched Wallander but I’m not sure of the type of atmosphere setting you speak of (other than long lingering shots of cars being driven), do you have any Youtube examples of what you mean in The Bridge. Could be a nice choice of direction.

    Regarding the ‘strong female character’, I do appreciate stories with strong, female role models that can’t be pushed around, but your description of that woman feels a little bit too much of them wanting to have a role-reversal of a womanising yet top quality hero which you have in people like James Bond, and to show a strong independent woman doing the same. Nothing overly wrong with that I guess, but I don’t like James Bond-like characters doing that, and it feels rather forced in reverse. But then I’m only going on what you’ve written.

    It does remind me of an annoyance that stopped me reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo not overly far into the book. In general, I can sense that this really isn’t a book for me, and although I can sort of see why others like it, it’s not my kind of thing. But one thing I disliked, which sounds similar here, is a girl (this would apply equally to a man if it were the case) who acts in a somewhat brash and forceful manner with little consideration for protocol, rank or established order, yet being so good at their job because…well…because the script says so, that they can overcome the fact that people acting like this in real jobs get kicked out for being a real pain to work with.

    I also have an issue with ‘flawless heroes’, which may not be the case with TGWTDT, and maybe the Bridge, but if they start off being exceptionally good at something without a real flaw (being disestablishment isn’t a flaw), then it comes across a bit one-dimensional.

    But I’m being unfair as I’m applying that to characters in books and films I have finished, and mentioning it in light of characters in books and films which I haven’t finished. But maybe you have spotted it too.

    That was a long post!


  2. Hi Dave!

    Loving the long comment!

    The Killing – what do I like about it? Well, I don’t want to repeat the points I made in my blog on that show, but the characters are so realistic. I loved the fact that the actors were so good at giving them very natural, almost unnoticeable mannerisms etc that just rounded out the character; you can see them fiddling with things, twitching their hands as they think, that sort of thing. If you don’t notice it, it doesn’t detract, but it’s the extra level of detail that makes it so much more convincing.

    Most of all, it is the realism of the peoples’ reactions to the events. The usual UK fare – Midsomer Murders, Piorot, Taggart et al – suffer from having caricatures of people who are either desolate throughout or utterly (and suspiciously) unmoved by the death of someone close. Not so in ‘The Killing’

    It does suffer from the cliffhanger-at-the-end-of-every-episode curse of TV, there’s no denying that, and in the first series it begins to drag a little in the middle. Despite that, it is still an excellent detective series.

    As for The Bridge, the best example of the atmosphere that I can find quickly on YouTube is actually the opening credits:

    It’s not a perfect example, but I think you’ll get my drift. There’s a dreamlike quality to a lot of it.

    With regard to Saga Noren, it turns out she’s supposed to have Asberger’s Syndrome, which would explain her rather bizarre behaviour. However, while this may well be a realistic portrayal of someone with Asperger’s, I find it hard to believe that, if Sweden has a similar recruitment process to the UK, someone with such extreme problems relating to other human beings would get through the assessment. I don’t want to go off on a rant about scriptwriters scraping the barrel of quirks in a desperate attempt to provide a well-known genre with something fresh, so I will let you follow my train of thought in your own time.

    I agree with your points about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I did read the whole trilogy, but they were far from the best crime novels I’ve ever read, let alone the best books. They are an example of clever hype overcoming the limitations of a mediocre writer churning out run-of-the-mill genre fiction and claiming it is something more meaningful because it contains a fairly straightforward pro-feminist theme running throughout. Sadly (and I’ll try not to go off on another rant here), it seems like a lot of people think quantity equals quality, so anyone who writes a trilogy running close to two thousand pages must have something meaningful to say.

    On a more positive note, if over the next few months you get a chance to see ‘Headhunters’ on DVD, I would highly recommend it. It’s a Norwegian black comedy crime caper, written by Jo Nesbo (“The New Steig Larsson!!!”) and I thoroughly enjoyed it in the cinema. I have yet to read the book, but will do so before long, and will let you know if the film-makers did a good job transferring it from page to screen or not.

  3. Sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to catch up on the Killing, as I do’t watch a lot of TV, and when I do its usually catching up on higher priorities. But I may give it a swing when I decide to pick up a Lovefilm subscription. I should really have one by now.

    Do you mean Asperger’s? I shall remain silent but also probably in the same mind-frame regarding the quirks issue of TV drama.

    I meant to see Headhunters at the Gulbenkian but I think I had exams or something when it was on. I shall try and catch it whenever though, because I did hear it was good.

  4. I do mean Asperger’s. Silly me for making such a basic mistake.

    I would highly recommend The Killing as a fine example of a police procedural drama, but it certainly isn’t in the same league as The Wire, The Sopranos, The West Wing (though I’m going on other peoples’ recommendations for the latter two) et al. Therefore, if you aren’t as big a detective story fan as I am, it won’t be so high on your list of things to watch.

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