Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Bridge: Grimly fascinating Danish/Swedish crime thriller with a killer who's good at PR

Grimly fascinating Danish/Swedish crime thriller The Bridge looks likely to be another hit for fans of rain-soaked Scandinavian-produced drama, sucking all the fun out of Saturday night for two hours while simultaneously replacing it with a murder hunt you won't want to take your eyes off. And that's not just because you'll miss a subtitle.

Comparisons to other Danish drama are probably inevitable, and tv-ooh has watched and enjoyed Borgen and The Killing, but The Bridge looks like it's gone darker still: gritty urban landscapes appearing all forbodin', grey washed out colours all over, and a strong female lead - although the additional presence here of some sort of social worker guy called Stefan, dressed like he's come straight from the 1970s, is one of several mysterious elements that still need to unfold.

So there's still many questions to answer in the developing plot, and the murdered women on the bridge won't be the last victims of the killer; but what's strange is that the killer appears to have an eye both for detail and for attention-seeking, as well as basic skills in web design and PR.

'Matter-of-factly gruesome'

He places his first victim precisely on the borderline on the Øresund bridge that links Sweden and Denmark, and the corpse itself (the boss of the city council in Malmö, Sweden) is still well dressed in a smart grey suit - until police attempt to lift her off and she splits in two, having been neatly sawn 'above the hips', using the type of blade that is often found in a slaughterhouse.

The close-up shot of her guts feel realistic and is horribly but matter-of-factly gruesome, and later police investigations reveal the lower half belongs to someone else: a young murdered prostitute and addict who disappeared a year ago and had been kept somewhere in deep freeze.

And then we learn that the killer, as if versed in the importance of good public relations, had hired a voice actor to record his messages to the police and public, which he releases on CD (which directs them to his website) via an elaborate bomb hoax which traps a cocky journalist in his car - the same one used to dump the bodies on the bridge - and makes him think he's about to be blown up.

This killer clearly likes a bit of a show.

Leading the investigation is the Swedish cop Saga Noren, who appears to possess no social niceties or interpersonal skills. She wears black leather trousers and boots, which may or may not turn out to be her 'thing', a la the inevitable reference to Sofie Graböl from The Killing and her Faro jumper.

Her police superior - who looks a bit like he was once in the Happy Mondays before retraining in Swedish crime fighting - has to monitor her behaviour and ensure she doesn't offend anyone, while her other colleagues just consider her 'odd'.

Lost in translation?

Either way, it's clear that Saga 'gets results', and speeding around in her olive green Porsche sports car with her new Danish police colleague Martin Rohde, who has just had a vasectomy and appears to have a troubling home life, they make a good team, even if the jokes about how the Swedish pronounce his Danish sirname get a bit lost in translation.

And when The Bridge was shown in Denmark and Sweden, were there Danish subtitles for the Swedish language bits, and vice versa or are the Danish and Swedish languages so similar that they can be understood by the other? The almost amusingly precise dual-language credits (often with near-identical words), and the melancholy theme music that's sung in Danish, Swedish and even English, perhaps suggest there were, if only to not upset anyone involved in the co-production's funding.

Would the UK equivalent of The Bridge be the West Country-accented bobbies from Avon and Somerset police finding two halves of a corpse on the Severn bridge en route to Cardiff? They would then have to work with police from Wales, who'd insist on speaking in their native tongue because the show was part-funded by Welsh money?

Fortunately, it's likely we'll never have to watch that particular piece of BAFTA-worthy drama, but such local relationships between neighbouring countries don't affect the drama in The Bridge, so the fact that Danish/Swedish in-jokes go over our English-speaking head in the UK doesn't matter.

Just hope that Saga and Martin manage to catch that killer.

(A second season of The Bridge has just been commissioned, and is to shoot later this year.)

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