"The Bridge", a subtitled Danish-Swedish eco-terrorism crime
saga reached its conclusion on British television on Saturday
with more than a million viewers — the latest international
success for the TV, film and literary genre.
Coinciding with the show's climax, a weekend "Nordicana"
conference of all things Nordic, from actors to food, brought
many of the genre's unlikely stars to London where one of the
questions they were peppered with was: why does this work?
"I hope it's the quality of the drama and the essential things
of humanity that you can imagine in all countries," said actress
Sidse Babett Knudsen. Playing the role of Birgitte Nyborg, she
became Denmark's first, if fictional, female prime minister in
the first season of the political drama "Borgen".
Life later imitated art and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, whose "selfie"
with U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister
David Cameron at Nelson Mandela's memorial service made
headlines, became Denmark's first real female premier in 2011.
Nordic Noir has a long vintage.
Perhaps the best known recent success was Stieg Larsson's
Millennium series of novels, starting with 2005's "The Girl with
the Dragon Tattoo". They have sold more than 60 million copies
and been made into Swedish and U.S. films.
But for Nordic TV drama, the lodestone was "The Killing" first
produced by Danish public broadcaster DR in 2007 and starring
Sofie Grabol as Detective Inspector Sarah Lund.
"We would be nowhere with a series like 'Borgen' if it hadn't
been for 'The Killing'," Babett Kudsen told Reuters.
"The Killing" has been sold in more than 135 countries and
territories, led to a U.S. remake, and made Lund's trademark
rustic knitted jumpers a fashion item.
Piv Bernth, the show's producer and now DR's Head of Drama, told
Reuters by email that "The Killing" created a new way of telling
a crime story.
"One killing in 20 episodes — you had to wait until the end if
you would find out who did it," he said. "At the same time, we
told a profound story about people and destinies in a modern
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At the Nordicana festival, among stalls selling open
sandwiches and Swedish jewelry, one fan wore a Birk Larsen Removals
T-shirt, a nod to a murder Lund solved in Season 1.
There are common themes to Nordic Noir. Strong female characters
reflect the emphasis on gender equality that is part of the
so-called Nordic model rooted in high levels of social protection
and defense of human rights.
There is winter. "We have a darkness in our
landscape that comes through in our writing, our directing and our
acting and is at the very core of the Nordic Noir thing," said Adam
Price, the Danish writer of Borgen, who is also a TV chef.
There is the contrast between the image of a wealthy region that
topped the United Nations World Happiness rankings in 2013 — Denmark
was first, Norway second and Sweden fifth — and the real problems
dealt with in the dramas.
"There is no paradise on earth...the Swedish system is becoming less
and less secure and more and more people are living harder lives,"
said Sofia Helin who plays the near-emotionless, Porsche-driving
detective Saga in "The Bridge" told Reuters.
"Borgen" writer Adam Price said part of the dramas'
success was due to the fact that DR had commissioned multiple
episodes at a time, allowing complex long-running storylines to be
woven over weeks.
"We can build the arc around the characters in a much more elaborate
way," he told Reuters.
But a state broadcaster's backing brings its own problems. "Borgen"
producer Camilla Hammerich said plots had to be balanced to ensure
There was even a debate about whether a right-wing party leader
could be shown wearing "ugly" shoes.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Tom
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