The brutal murder of a young girl launches an extended police investigation. Detective Sarah Lund is supposed to leave for a new life in Sweden, but can't bring herself to leave the case behind. The girl's parents and friends struggle to cope with their loss. Troels Hartmann is campaigning to be mayor of Copenhagen, but struggles when links are revealed between city hall and the murder. Over a time span of twenty days, suspect upon suspect is sought out as violence and political pressures cast their shadows over the hunt for the killer. Two more seasons follow about a series of killings of soldiers and the abduction of an industrial magnate's daughter.Written by
Peter Brandt Nielsen
Immensely absorbing and brilliant series about the aftermath of a crime
This amazing Danish series is even more absorbing than MAD MEN (2007, see my review), and may be the most compelling drama series ever made for television. It keeps you on the edge of your seat for 20 hours. (My review is of the complete Series One only, as Series Two is not yet released on DVD and Series Three is being shot as I write.) It is a pity that the title of the series has been mistranslated as THE KILLING, for that gives a false impression of some seedy cop caper, full of violence and murder, sirens and car chases. The Danish title FORBRYDELSEN means 'The Crime'. The crime of this 20-hour marathon takes place before the series begins, and is the mysterious murder of a 19 year-old girl named Nanna Birk Larsen. We never see her except in photos and one video clip. The series is about the incredibly complex and breathtakingly dramatic aftermath, much of which concerns political intrigue and corruption in Copenhagen's town hall. The crime is seen to be much more than just a killing, which is another reason why the English title is wholly inadequate. (It is typical of the inferior nonentities who now run the BBC that they want to sensationalize everything and inject sex and murder into everything they can because they think it will be 'popular'; there are many instances of this. The BBC has no business trying to be 'popular' and aim for high ratings because it is funded by a tax on every TV set in Britain and audience size is not needed for advertisers, as there are none.) The acting and direction for this series are so brilliant there are simply no words strong enough to praise the persons involved. First of all, one must praise the writer Soren Sveistrup and his three co-writers for coming up with the most complex murder mystery plot imaginable, and with fascinating and convincing character studies. Even the smallest parts are of interest, and no attention to detail is overlooked. Five different directors made this series, the chief being Kristoffer Nyholm, and it ties together seamlessly as if all made by the same person. That indicates highly superior producing by the team of three producers. The series also has haunting and highly effective music, composed by Frans Bak. These are all highly talented people, and they are matched by the first class acting of everyone in the series. The acting is rather different from what we are used to outside Scandinavia. The Danes are obviously specialists in silent communication by means of significant looks, both focused and unfocused. The specialists in this art of communicating by non-communication are Bjarne Henriksen and Ann Eleonora Jorgensen, who play the married couple Theis and Pernille Birk Larsen. Henriksen rarely speaks at all, but his silences are enormously communicative, and as for Jorgensen, she conveys much by a manic staring into space as her personality disintegrates and she slowly goes to pieces in the aftermath of her daughter's murder. Her waves of hysteria are like tsunamis of silence. All of this is extremely powerful stuff. The strangest of all the silent characters in the film is the police chief Brix, played with eerie composure, tinged with mute menace, by Morten Suurballe. It is impossible to overemphasize the power of these silent figures in the story, who tower over the action like censorious megaliths. Many Scandinavians have a code of formal politeness like a veneer over their personal conflicts. This is seen in heightened fashion between the urbane scoundrel Poul Bremer, the Mayor of Copenhagen, played with extreme cunning and finesse by Bent Majding, and the young politician who opposes him, Troels Hartmann, played in a breathtaking bravura performance of determined rectitude by Lars Mikkelsen. These two repeatedly insult each other throughout the entire 20 hours in the politest way imaginable, despite the fact that the insults are so vicious and extreme that in any 'normal' culture, the men would be hitting each other with their fists and shouting vitriolic abuse. Scandinavian self-control really has to be seen and heard to be believed. Another amazing performance in the series is delivered by Nicolaj Kopernikus (Yes! Nicholas Copernicus! Can you believe that?) as Vagn. But the series is dominated by the female lead, Sofie Grabol, playing the detective Sarah Lund. Her mastery of significant looks extends to showing in her face and eyes the very formation of thoughts! When she notices something or thinks of something, it is as if a chorus has begun to sing the Magnificat, but we hear nothing because it is all inside her head. She is magnificently supported by Soren Malling as Jan Meyer, her fellow-detective. Their constant bickerings and disagreements overlay a profound sympathy and mutual respect. Grabol reminds me very strongly indeed of Caroline Proust, who plays the female lead detective in the French series ENGRENAGES, known in English as SPIRAL (2005, see my review of the first two series). The choice of the right actress to play the lead female detective can make or break a detective series, and both the Danes and the French got it right. (Various examples of getting it catastrophically wrong can be seen in several British series.) Every actor and actress in this series seems to be perfectly cast and to deliver a perfect performance. It is really an astonishing achievement, and one did not realize that such a mass of perfection existed in Denmark. How do they do it? They really are a strangely introverted and mannered breed. Watching this series is an education in just how different peoples of different countries can be from one another, invisible as that may be on the surface. One should not neglect Marie Askehave as Rie, Michael Moritzen as Morten Weber, Laura Drasbaek as Charlotte, and Jesper Lohmann as Jens Holck, all of whom are excellent. A true masterpiece!
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