Tag Archives: tv

Borgen Briefing

Saturday 18 February 2012, 2-4pm. Mercer Room, Covent Garden Community Centre, London WC2H 9LA

Featuring Annette K. Olesen, Director of Borgen episodes 9 and 10.

When the Danish drama Borgen hit British television screens last month, we asked our Twitter followers what kind of cultural background information would help them make sense of this political drama. They told us they wanted to know about Danish language, the Danish television industry, Danish coalition politics, and Danish pastries. So our Borgen Briefing will include short, fun presentations by UCL experts on Danish language, culture and politics, and a Q&A with our very special guest from Denmark Annette K. Olesen, who directed episodes 9 and 10. We couldn’t find an expert on the cultural history of Danish pastries, so we decided we’d just serve up lots of coffee and wienerbrød on the day. Space is limited: book your ticket here!

Directions to the venue (updated 17 February 2012)

This is a note to help guide you to the venue. The street address is 42 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LA (the postcode 6LA has been circulating – we think this might be their admin office). Official guidance from Seven Dials and a map can be found here: http://www.sevendialsclub.com/contact/location-2/

It’s a very nice venue but a little bit tucked away, and it doesn’t always seem to come up very accurately on google maps. Here are instructions from the two most likely approach directions:

If you’re standing at the Seven Dials roundabout / monument with the Cambridge Theatre on your right and the Crown pub opposite you, turn right along Earlham Street. About half way down the street, on your left hand side, you should see the red signs for the Donmar Theatre. Seven Dials Club / Covent Garden Community Centre (our venue) is number 42, on the right hand side of the street, before you reach the Donmar. It has a black brick frontage and glass entrance doors.

If you get off at Covent Garden tube, walk towards Marks and Spencer on the other side of Long Acre. Just to your right is Neal Street. Walk up Neal Street, past Shelton Street on the left, and take the next left turn into Earlham Street (Urban Outfitters is on the corner). Walk towards the red signs of the Donmar Theatre. Seven Dials Club is just after and opposite the Donmar, at number 42 Earlham Street, on your left, with a black brick frontage and glass entrance doors.

We’ll have scouts with signs out on Earlham street looking for lost-looking Borgen fans…



Filed under Television drama, tv crime

The Culture Café Radio Show on The Killing

Tuesday, March 15, 1.15 – 2.00 pm, there will be a short talk about The Killing and Scandinavian crime fiction on BBC Radio Scotland’s show, The Culture Café. I will talk with host Clare English and TV critic Jane Graham about the recent success of the Danish TV crime series, and I may just give away how you knit the perfect Sarah Lund jumper (en islandsk sweater, as we call it in Danish). Here’s the blurb from the programme site:

The actors wear chunky-knit jumpers, it’s filmed largely in the dark and rain and it has a less than inviting title. But BBC4’s The Killing, a subtitled Danish thriller that slowly unfolds over 20 hours as police hunt for the murderer of a 19-year-old girl, has proved a perhaps unlikely hit. The show has been getting higher viewing figures than Mad Men did when it was shown on the channel and the BBC has confirmed that it has bought the second series. The show, which has been a hit across Europe, underscores the growing popularity of Scandinavian TV crime, following as it does the Swedish Wallander series. To explore the attraction of Nordic Noir Clare’s joined by Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, lecturer in Scandinavian literature at University College London and TV critic, Jane Graham.

We are most likely going to talk about how it can be that a subtitled Danish crime thriller has become such a hit in the UK and beyond, and not only with the hardened Nordic Noir crime fans. As some of you may have seen, I was quoted in The Guardian a few weeks ago for my surprise reaction to its popularity. My point is, it is not usual for British TV viewers to spend 20 hours in the company of a language that sounds like somebody speaking while “eating a hot potato” (as a student of mine said once), and having to be constantly distracted to read the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Not that I have low opinions about the multi-tasking skills of British TV viewers, but it is something that you have to get used to.  That British viewers don’t mind, I think, is unusual, especially compared to Scandinavian TV, where viewers more often than not view programmes that are subtitled from one language or another.

And then there is the question of the story. Again, isn’t it surprising that people get hooked on a series with multiple plot lines, where the crime elements are constantly over shadowed by the story of the grieving family, Lund’s inability to make a relationships work, or even her inability to be a good mother, a good daughter, etc. And we don’t really know why she is like that. I also can’t be the only one wondering about the portrayal of Lund. She is not the first female crime investigator in Scandinavian crime or even crime made for TV, but she is fundamentally different. She is gendered differently, and so is her partner investigator. She is no feminist, she is herself: maybe she has become a traditionally male gendered crime investigator to make it in that world: she shows no real empathy with anyone, she is all work at a great cost to her family life, etc.

This is what Danish media critic Karen Klitgaard Povlsen writes about The Killing in a chapter in Andrew Nestingen and Paula Arvas’ recent book, Scandinavian Crime Fiction (an excllent study of all things Nordic Noir – can’t recommend it enough! I will write a review as soon as I get to the end):

Sarah Lund is a clever police officer, but a bad mother and lover. She has no empathy, and is incapable of bonding or identifying with other women. Indeed, she might be described as a stereotypical and conventional male detective in a feminine disguise … This series depicts the investigator’s career in dystopian terms, at the same time as it depicts Danish politics as another dystopia. (Karen Klitgaard Povlsen)

Is this partly what makes her character so appealing – so enigmatic; does it matter? And what does this say about Women in the Danish welfare state?


Filed under Danish crime fiction, tv crime

The Killing and Scandinavian Crime in The Guardian

The Guardian in the UK is running a blog on The Killing currently being screened on BBC4. Here’s a link to today’s post:


Saturday, they will bring an article on the Killing and Scandinavian Crime Fiction, in general.

Leave a comment

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

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): http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/culture/film_and_tv/tv/article539562.ece#prev


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

The Killing (Danish tv crime on BBC)

While Denmark may not have produced the blockbuster crime novels that Sweden has, crime series written for tv has for years been internationally acclaimed – and extremely popular with a Danish audience.

One of the most widely watched series in recent years is “Forbrydelsen” starring Sophie Gråbøl as the rather maladjusted genious Police investigator Sarah Lund.

This weekend the first two episodes were aired on BBC4 with English subtitles, as The Killing, and it is going to be interesting to see what an English-speaking audience makes of the Lund character and the series. I found it to be somewhere between 24 (w. Kiefer Sutherland) and the Swedish Wallander series, but it is very much its own.

BBC website for the series

If Danes repsond to this post, please don’t give the plot away. Why has Danish tv crime been so popular? How does the Sarah Lund character strike you? What is the difference between crime novels and tv crime series? What seems particularly Danish or Scandinavian about The Killing? Let’s get a discussion going about the series as it aires on BBC – it could be really interesting to learn how non-Scandinavian viewers see this series.


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

Nordic Noir: The Story of Scandinavian Crime Fiction (BBC documentary)

Monday, 20 December @ 9pm on BBC4:

Nordic Noir on BBC4

From the BBC: “Draw the curtains and dim the lights for a chilling trip north for a documentary which investigates the success of Scandinavian crime fiction and why it exerts such a powerful hold on our imagination. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a literary blockbuster that has introduced millions of readers to the phenomenon that is Scandinavian crime fiction – yet author Stieg Larsson spent his life in the shadows and didn’t live to see any of his books published. It is one of the many mysteries the programme investigates as it travels to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland in search of the genre’s most acclaimed writers and memorable characters. It also looks at Henning Mankell’s brooding Wallander series, with actor Krister Henriksson describing the challenge of bringing the character to the screen, and it asks why so many stories have a political subtext. The programme finds out how Stieg Larsson based the bestselling Millennium trilogy on his work as an investigative journalist and reveals the unlikely source of inspiration for his most striking character, Lisbeth Salander. There are also segments on Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian rock star-turned-writer tipped to inherit Larsson’s mantle, and Karin Fossum, an author whose personal experience of murder has had a profound effect on her writing.” Visit the programme website here. This documentary also  features Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL Scandinavian Studies)


Filed under Scandinavian crime fiction, tv crime