There seems to be no end to appetite for Scandinavian drama in the UK at the moment. After Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy achieved record book sales, and the more gentle Wallander detective series grew popular, the dark and moody Danish TV phenomena, The Killing, as well as the Danish political drama, Borgen, both took UK by storm.
Now there’s a new, and even better, Danish/Swedish TV collaboration, Bron, or The Bridge. A woman is found dead on the Öresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden. As she is lying exactly on the border, a detective from each country is assigned to the case. The Swedish female detective Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) has long blonde hair and angelic looks, but is, as described by her underlings, ‘A bit special.’ Saga is a brilliant detective; she’s methodological and unemotional. But there are downsides to her character: she likes to have sex but doesn’t understand why it should be combined with a relationship; she’s a stickler for rules, however ridiculous they may be. Her Danish colleague, Martin Rodhe (Kim Bodnia) could not be more different; as the investigation turns into a race to find a serial killer, we see that Rodhe is, if anything, rather too emotionally charged.
The Bridge follows the Scandinavian crime writing tradition which began in the sixties with Sjöwall and Wahlöö, in that it focuses on serious problems in Swedish (and here Danish) societies, which on the surface seem perfect. It also plays heavily into Swedish and Danish stereotypes: Martin with his round form and his tendency to take the easy way out is the archetypal Dane, while leather trouser wearing, humourless Saga is how Swedish women are often seen in the rest of the Nordic countries. Even if none of this has any base in reality, it makes good television.
The series is also a fast-paced roller coaster. I had to hide my face behind a cushion on several occasions as we speed watched the DVD set, but there’s also great humour in it, with actual laugh-out-loud moments. It’s in the relationship between the two detectives where the strength of Bjorn Stein’s writing lies. Saga always tells the truth and adheres strictly to regulations (even though her name means ‘fairytale’ in English), while Martin doesn’t mind telling a few porkies to save himself and others grief. As the case becomes more complicated and serious, the relationship between Saga and Martin also grows. Both actors are excellent in their roles, but Sofia Helin outshines Kim Bodna with her fully convincing portrayal of the cold-blooded female investigator, Saga.
If you didn’t catch the first two episodes of The Bridge on BBC4 last Saturday, I recommend you watch it online here. Bron is Scandi crime at its best.
BBC4 Saturdays at 9 pm
(Episode 1 & 2 were shown on 21.04.2012)
PS. Many thanks for my friend who lent me the DVD’s and kept nagging I should watch them. I wish I’d done it months ago!