The Killing

Film aficionados have probably watched a foreign (probably French) film with subtitles at one time or another. I can imagine them thinking beforehand ‘This is going to be a waste of time’ but if the film turned out to be good then I expect they may have searched for some other examples of the genre.

So, how about this? A Danish TV crime drama in 20 episodes in Danish language with English subtitles. It sounds a stretch but could well be worth searching it out if you have the time.

“The Killing” was recently shown in double episodes over 10 weeks on BBC4 and many people like me have been surprised that (a) they were able to watch it and (b) that it was rather good. Check out the reviews of the DVD on Amazon.co.uk if you don’t believe me.

A poor scheduling decision by the BBC meant the program clashed with two other dramas on Saturday night (The Tudors and Nurse Jackie) so I was forced to record the late night repeats during the week and started watching it at a leisurely pace about halfway through the schedule. I found the subtitles a little annoying at first but I grew accustomed to them by the end of the first episode. Having now seen eight episodes, I am looking forward to watching the final outcome.

The story is of a brutal murder of a young female student which leads into a long police investigation with links to a mayoral election and includes political scheming and connivance. The grieving family are also heavily featured which is unusual in this type of show. The task of the viewer, as in most of these types of show, is to identify the murderer.

The program has a bleak mood and dark atmosphere with Denmark being portrayed as a rain soaked gloomy location. Much of the filming is taken place at night to enhance this mood. The pace of the show is patient but not dragging, and the investigation moves logically and you don’t see cutting between scenes unless it is relevant to the plot.

TV crime dramas based on a single murder are not that common but shows like ‘Murder One’ and ‘Twin Peaks’ were also successful in drawing out this type of story in a slow and meticulous way.

Obviously the actors were not known to me but I thought that the charismatic electoral candidate Troels Hartmann (played by Lars Mikkelsen) and the intelligent and thoughtful DCI Sarah Lund (played by Sofie Grabol) was extremely well played. I do not want to give away too much of the plot but you tend to find yourself needing to watch the next episode to see what happens next.

With the remake of the Swedish drama “Wallander” (based on the books by Henning Mankell) and the French drama “Spiral” (already into a third series), the BBC are finding a fairly rich vein of foreign drama to tap into at (presumably) a reasonably cheap price. With Scandinavian authors like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo appearing a lot more in our book stores, there may be future films and TV shows based on this type of material.

If you did not catch ‘The Killing’ when it was on then you can rent or buy the DVD which was released on the 4th April.  The BBC will be showing the second series and a third series has been given the go-ahead by the producers, Danmarks Radio.

It is also interesting that the show has been noticed in America where the AMC TV network are currently showing a remake of the show (over 13 episodes) based in Seattle with the script heavily based on the Danish version. There is no news at the moment on whether this will be picked up by one of the UK TV channels.

Paul and Gary