My addiction to Nordic Noir

13th November 2017

What better way is there to while away the darker winter months than curled up on the sofa totally engrossed in a spellbinding tv series.

In the UK we’ve been very lucky since Sarah Lund and her now infamous Faroe Island sweater rose to fame back in 2007 as tv programmers have given us a steady supply of unmissable Nordic Noir ever since. 

But don’t worry if you’re not a complete addict just yet, here are my must watch shows to get you started:

1. Borgen

I could happily watch Borgen on a continuous loop; and it was this political drama that really started my love affair with Denmark. Thanks to Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babet Knudsen) I now have a range of Royal Copenhagen cups, Stelton coffee pots and a cashmere scarf for all occasions. Our level of Borgen-mania probably reached its peak when we actually did a tour of the Danish Parliament back in 2015.

Series 1 and 2 are an absolute masterclass in exploring the personal and the political; viewers leap from the complexities of leading a coalition government to the emotional pressures of bringing up a family and sustaining a happy marriage. 

The last season is definitely the weakest of the three, though it does boast probably one of the best on-screen performances in all of Nordic Noir by Søren Malling, playing beleaguered TV-News Exec Torben Friis.  An absolute must-watch. 

2. Follow the Money 

If you’re looking for something that has you on the edge of your seat, shouting at the screen through to peeping through your fingers this is the show for you. All I can say is economic crime drama has never been so thrilling. The characters are again fantastic: Mads, Nicky, Alf, Bimse (poor Bimse!!!), but the ‘Shitty Swede’ – as he’s now known in our house – is probably the greatest ever baddie of the small screen. 

The first season is arguably a bit slow, but absolutely worth sticking with, as the story pays off massively in Season Two – for my money, perhaps the best 12 episodes of Nordic Noir ever made.

Again, look closely at how the traditional Danish Modern and New Nordic interiors reflect the lives of the characters, their values and their place in society.

3. The Legacy

This show is like nothing else we’ve watched, but encapsulates perfectly the complexities of families and how the bonds between them endure no matter what the cost. It’s not going to suit everyone, (it’s definitely not Broadchurch), but if you’re looking for something utterly addictive then give it a go.

With a brilliant mix of the tragic, the absurd, the funny and the uplifting; each season builds to a beautiful concluding episode. Carsten Bjørnlund as Frederik is totally amazing, and his scenes with younger brother Emil (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) are packed with every type of sibling related emotion.  Also Gro (Trine Dyrholm) is a total inspiration to me, from her sense of style (which optimises Danish fashion perfectly), through to her job as an art gallery director (filmed at the Statens Museum for Kunst – again a must visit). What can I say? I just love her.

4. The Killing

A list about Nordic Noir would not be complete without The Killing. Totally ground breaking at the time, a slow-paced, detailed approach to solving a tragic, and what ‘appears’ to be isolated murder. Seasons Two and Three, though not as good, are still gripping, and a lot of fun.  

If you’ve never watched any Nordic Noir before, Season One of The Killing is probably the best place to start. It introduces everything you’ll see everywhere else: the moodiness, the introduction to beautiful interiors, the idea of an isolated crime that opens up an entire web of corruption exposing Denmark’s political elite, the complex relationship between work and home, the sense of a happy conclusion right before you realise that there’s still an episode (or half an hour) left to go when it could all unravel again; and of course many of the faces you’ll see popping up in all the other good Scandi dramas (making you realise how small the Danish acting community must be!)

5. The Bridge

Whereas The Killing is the quintessential example of Scandi-crime-drame Type Number 1: an isolated crime that goes to the top of Danish society; The Bridge is the go-to example of Type 2: a slightly fantastical, complex, and highly conceptual series of killings usually perpetrated by a murderer with a grievance from earlier in their life or career (or driven by a shadowy cult).

To some extent though, the actual crimes tend to play second fiddle to the real stars of the Bridge: the relationships between the two police officers (one Danish, one Swedish), and the brooding presence of the Øresundbroen itself (an engineering marvel we’ve felt compelled to cross several times!).

The show, whilst a lot of fun (and a bit daft and farfetched at times) is really more of a cultural examination of the Danish and Swedish psyches, with the two main characters being loveable but extreme charicateurs of their national stereotypes: note the highly organised, but uptight Swedish detective Saga (Sofia Helin); and her easy-going, not afraid to break the rules, Danish counterpart Martin (Kim Bodnia). 

Suspension of disbelief is definitely required; but The Bridge is still classic Nordic Noir that shouldn’t be missed.

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