The Sunday Times reviews Danish crime tv-series The Killing

Stephen Armstrong has written a thorough and informed review of the series currently running on BBC4 with contributions by the writers, Gråbøl  and myself (trying my best to pitch our Nordic Noir events).

Armstrong begins the review by comparing it to the famous American series The Wire (I get the connection in terms of style, urban context and focus on character, but otherwise it is a bit stretched). He writes:

If someone you know hasn’t recommended The Killing to you yet, they will soon. Pretty much guaranteed. It is, in word-of-mouth terms, the new The Wire. In fact, it shares a lot with the now almost mythical Baltimore cop show. It’s got cops, for starters. There’s also town-hall corruption with attendant political journalists and mayoral candidates, and the tale spins out devoid of the clichés surrounding thrillers or police procedurals. In other ways, however, The Killing is different. For one thing, it’s in Danish.

Imagine a time when something appearing in original languages on UK tv with subtitles will not seem strange or exotic! And imagine a time when newsmedia will be capable of adopting foreign ortography, so that Gråbøl wont be spelled (and pronounced) Grabol. Armstrong makes a strong case for allowing more international tv enrich UK programming. The review presents some interesting observations about the character-driven Nordic Noir style, and the gender of the series’ protagonist.

I am quoted for saying the following, which surely some of you will disagree with, so sorry:

For Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, lecturer in Scandinavian literature at UCL, The Killing is still a part of “Nordic noir”, the genre that spawned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Wallander books and TV series. “They all share a certain bleakness, a certain view of the city and the countryside, a slow pacing and the presence of political disenchantment,” he explains. “It’s the Nordic regions’ literary reaction to the ending of the social democracy, to the unfolding of the cosy post-war period. Often, you find writers of Nordic thrillers come from a poetic or high literary background, but find the detective genre a useful plot tool, a way of driving the story forward. All the same, unlike more typical American and British detective fiction, the essence of these stories is the people, not the crime. That’s why it’s noir — these are dark people with dark characters unfolding. It’s not a romp to solve the clues.”

From The Sunday Times, “The Wire in the Blood” (13-02-2011):



Filed under Danish crime fiction, Scandinavian crime fiction, tv crime

9 responses to “The Sunday Times reviews Danish crime tv-series The Killing

  1. Carole Jones

    saw the killing for the first time last night. It was brilliant to watch from now on i am definately a fan

  2. Rob

    Snail-paced crime series that will test anyone with low frustration tolerence and an eye for congruent detail. The actors were convincing in each their roles; the contextual ambience more than enough to invite an audience, the promise of justice being done serving to encourage viewer commitment, but the story was stretched beyond acceptable limits and generated viewer dissatisfaction.

  3. Sal

    Cannot believe that if this is not adapted from a book that they have not made it into one! Is excellent series. Have been watching US version and am now watching the orignial on BBC4 – I here today in the Radio Times that BBC4 is again under threat of being axed – rediculous – they said it’s like hearing your local library is going to be closed down!

  4. em jubala

    Is the series based on a book? If so, I’d love to read it. Please inform.
    Can you recommend any other authors of nordic noir? I’ve read all by Fossum, Wallender, etc.

    • jakobstougaard

      The Killing is made for TV and the manuscript is written by Søren Sveistrup. Take a look at our comments string on the blog about who will be the next great Scandinavian crime writer. There should be some good suggestions for further reading.

  5. Keith Riley

    An excellent series. Well written and acted. As with most television programmes of this genre it is very light on the backroom stuff that goes on in a real murder enquiry. With only a two person investigation team, a distinct lack of the paperwork, team briefings, data inputting and checking etc. I like the atmospheric music as well.

  6. Brigitte Bertout

    The Guardian publishes today (24 February) an article (which mentions The Killing) entitled “Can Scandinavian crime fiction teach socialism?”. Interesting. Please refer to:

  7. I have to admit I am now quite enjoying it, having been very put off by the gratuitously depicted pursuit and violence of a teenage girl in episode 1. It is also too drawn out, with individual episodes each with a preamble of what went before. But the actual story and acting of the main police detective are good, so far….in my view.
    This series must be pretty old by now I think, as it has been shown in Australia some time ago….

  8. Ian

    I agree with practically everything you’ve said, Jakob, but in terms of “a certain view of the city and the countryside”… well, we haven’t seen much of the countryside so far in The Killing, but what we have seen and what we’ve seen of the city and indeed the interiors, is – unless my TV’s gone out of adjustment – much, much darker than say the Wallander series. No images reflecting the Danish flag here!

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