Iceland Noir 2014 and BBC1’s The Fall

I’ll be heading to Reykjavik next week for Iceland Noir 2014. To say I’m a little excited is something of an understatement.

As this poster shows, Iceland Noir 2014 features the crème de la crème of Icelandic and international crime writers. There’s an exciting programme running over two days, with lovely extras such as Reykjavik crime walks, jazz-infused crime readings and the announcement of the Icepick Award (shortlist available here). With luck we’ll also have some northern lights swirling above. I’m very much looking forward to meeting old friends and new, and to uncovering lots of fabulous new crime fiction. There may be some tweeting too…

My reading on the plane out will be Ragnar Jónasson’s novel Snjóblinda (Snowblind, 2010), the first in his ‘Dark Iceland’ series.

Here’s a brief description: >> Winter in a small, isolated fishing town in the northernmost part of Iceland, only accessible via a small mountain tunnel. A young woman is found lying in the snow, bleeding and unconscious. An old writer falls to his death in the local theatre. A young police officer, new in town, must distinguish between truth and lies, while uncovering hidden crimes of the past, in a community where he can trust no-one, before the constant snowstorms and the twenty four hour darkness push him over the edge. << I’ll be tucking into the German translation, but am pleased to hear that the novel will be published in English translation by Orenda Press in 2015.

Online chatter has alerted me to the start of the second series of BBC1’s The Fall, which features Gillian Anderson as police superintendent Stella Gibson on the trail of Belfast serial killer Paul Spector. I’ve not seen any of this crime drama as yet. The Northern Ireland setting and the female lead have definitely piqued my interest, but the focus on the serial killer, and his depiction as mild-mannered family man by day and murderer of women by night, has rather put me off, as has the view of critics such as Rachel Cooke. My neighbour Ernie (who’s not at all keen on the serial-killer angle either) considers it a well-made drama with depth, so now I’m in two minds again. Have any of you watched it? Would you recommend viewing it or not?

43 thoughts on “Iceland Noir 2014 and BBC1’s The Fall

  1. Lucky you to go to Iceland!!! I will have to wait for the English version of Snow Blind, drat, and then wait some more for a Canadian distributor…sigh. Still I read about it here first!

  2. So green with envy about your trip to Iceland – you realise we will all want a full report!
    Vis a vis ‘The Fall’ it is very well-made with many nuances. However I would suggest you watched the first series before embarking on the current one. I know they are ‘stand-alone’ but you would get much more from the second series if you had watched the first. I am hooked (despite the fact that Gillian Anderson’s slow and mannered way of speaking drives me nuts!) All in all, gripping TV.

    • There will definitely be a report on Iceland Noir once I’m back, and I’ll tweet a bit over the two days as well.

      Thanks for your view on The Fall – sounds like it’s worth a shot (if I can get over the serial killer thing). I think you’re right though – I’d have to start with series 1. It’s actually on BBC iPlayer at the moment.

  3. The Fall is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it, I love it, The Fall that is not marmite! there’s a lot of depth to it, Gillian Anderson is superb, very strong character, as you would expect from her.
    interesting article in the Indie couple of weeks ago, interview with the actor who plays the killer, about how dark he found the part . The fact that he is loving farther, makes the part interesting. Thought
    while watching the first series, you could end up being type cast if you are not careful, so he takes
    lead part in the film of 50 Shades of Pale! Umm makes you wonder! Watch it & form your own
    Will Arnaldur Indridason be there? don’t think I saw his name. Like the sound of that book, will keep an eye out for it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Brian. I do like Gillian Anderson, so that’s a powerful reason for watching, and I like the sound of the series’ depth too.

      Indridason isn’t on the programme (he was last year), but I’m hoping he might pop in for a cuppa while we are all there. Would be LOVELY to meet him.

  4. I am always envious of people going to Iceland, it is the one place outside of the US I would really like to visit (I don’t like to travel much). And combining that with a crime fiction conference, what fun.

    • The perfect combination! I know quite a few people who’ve been to Iceland on holiday and they’ve all raved about it. Will try to sneak in a few sights and suspect it will be the first in a few trips.

  5. Have a lovely time in Iceland – greetings to so many great writers that I enjoy reading! And I’m looking forward to Snowblind as well…
    I’m ambiguous about The Fall. It’s cleverly shot, well acted (although I don’t particularly like Gillian Anderson in it – she’s a bit too icy, slow and mannered in it, much as I like her in other roles). But it makes me uncomfortable, it tries a bit too hard to be moody… and when she goes to the crime scene alone, with her high-heeled shoes and tight skirts, I felt like yelling out loud: ‘Well, the Scandinavian detectives at least wear sensible clothes when they go by themselves in dark and dangerous places…’

  6. I too am ambiguous about The Fall. I was drawn into the first series and I do think Gillian Anderson is good, but the way the murders are depicted made me feel very uneasy. I think Rachel Cooke is right, really.

    • Thanks, Chrissie – interesting. I’m hearing a variety of views, which suggests that there’s a divided response to the series, particularly in terms of its depiction of violence against women.

  7. Didn’t see the start of the new series. First series was pretty good but had an edge about it; the Gillian Anderson character had some unfortunate characteristics. (I love GA ) Anyway, this article offers you some material if you haven’t seen it already!
    Enjoy Reykjavik.

    • Thanks – yes, had spotted that article and a couple of others have said they thought its points were valid. Jury still out for me. Will mull on it while in Reykjavik 🙂

  8. Have fun in Iceland – I was on a panel at Brisbane Writers Festival with Yrsa and had some great discussions about women in crime fiction. She’s smart and witty and a lovely person.

    As to The Fall…. I watched and was not persuaded that this was ‘groundbreaking’ in its depiction of women and violence. The makers were prepared to show – in great detail and at great length in a scene that went on for some minutes – the rape and strangulation of a woman. They were NOT prepared to walk the viewer through a door and into a room where a woman and her child – a child who had just seen his father shot dead in front of him – howled and wept. We heard the terrible sounds they made. We saw the policeman place his hand on the door knob to go in. We – CUT!

    At that point I yelled at my TV screen ‘Cowards!’

    The Killing in S1 walked us through that door, sat us with those parents as they told their young sons that their big sister was never coming home. It made us sit with their grief. That – in my opinion – is a depiction of the reality of violence.

    Nicci Gerrard, in an article in The Guardian, said “I couldn’t work out if it was feminist or almost pornographic in its visceral depictions of degradation and sexual horror.” I came down on the side of pornographic.

    The full quote is –

    “The Fall powerfully explores sexual violence and the way in which serial rapists and killers eroticise power and death, but there’s a very fine line between exploring violence and male misogyny and simply portraying, even enacting it. I couldn’t work out if it was feminist or almost pornographic in its visceral depictions of degradation and sexual horror. Perhaps it is both – and perhaps that’s why it is so powerfully disturbing. But I wonder if the series could have got away with its portrayal of the sexual torture of women if it hadn’t had a strong professional woman at its centre. Did Anderson’s DCI Gibson legitimise the portrayal of sexual horror?”

    From a good article here:
    Move over, Morse: female TV detectives are on the case now

    • Thanks so much for this extended comment and for flagging up this article. The bit you quoted crystallized a point I’d been wondering about: whether the depiction of a strong female investigative lead was somehow being used to offset criticism of the depiction of the murderer and his murders. I hadn’t realized that the series showed the murders in such detail – that would almost certainly be enough to put me off – but on the other hand I have watched some very hard-hitting crime drama that does the same (e.g. Happy Valley) and felt that it was justified. The key factor ALWAYS for me is whether the depiction of that violence is gratuitous or not. If there is even a hint of that violence being there for dubious ends then in my view it has failed. Obviously, I haven’t seen any of The Fall, so am in a limited position to judge, but it doesn’t sound promising. Your point about what was not shown in terms of victim impact was also very interesting.

      I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Yrsa a couple of times at CrimeFest in Bristol. She is indeed wonderful and I’m looking forward to seeing her again!

  9. Thanks for the mention of The Fall. I didn’t see Series 1 and taking on board the comments don’t
    think I’ll be watching series 2. Enjoy Iceland, lucky you xx

  10. We were in Iceland during September. amazingly beautiful. I felt dwarfed by nature the entire time. Reyjkavik was a total blast…and oh…the GORGEOUS MEN!!! Never in my life had I seen so many attractive and well dressed males! WOOOO!
    The Fall is the creepiest drama I’ve ever seen…dark and foreboding but SO well casted and tightly written! Even though it made me squirm and half of me didn’t want to tune in each week, I kept coming back to it! Now that’s compelling tv!
    Have a wonderful trip!!!

    • Oh ho! That’s not an aspect I’ve seen picked up by the Iceland tourist guides… Looking forward to it all greatly.

      Thanks for your view of The Fall – opinion split neatly down the middle at the moment, which is very interesting in and of itself.

  11. Jazz infused crime readings – you lucky beast! I read Rachel Cooke’s article and agreed with much of it but The Fall is very well put together, brilliantly acted, compelling TV and there’s not a huge amount of that around. If you do decide to watch it don’t watch it with the lights off.

    • Thanks, Vicky. If I ever do watch it, I’ll be sure to do so during daylight hours. My imagination is far too active to watch close to bedtime…

      Yes, Icelandic jazz. Will be interesting!

  12. Have a great time in Iceland Mrs P. Thanks for the link to the Guardian review of The Fall which I have never watched – but really enjoyed the heated debate which took place in the Guardian comments section.

  13. By the way meant to add that I heard Foreign Bodies today in the car, Mark Lawson was looking at Polish crime writing, sounds really interesting, have you read any, what do you recommend?

    • Thanks for the reminder, Blighty. I’d heard that there was a new series of Foreign Bodies on – must catch up.

      I have to confess that I haven’t read much Polish crime at all, and am not even sure how much there is in translation. I’ll try to listen to the programme soon and see if any of the titles under discussion ring a bell. Was Marek Krajewski mentioned? He’s written a historical series set in Breslau during WW2. I’ve read the first one (Death in Breslau), but didn’t really get on with it (need to give it another go perhaps, as people keep telling me it’s good).

  14. Have a great time in Iceland, Mrs P!
    Another no-vote for ‘The Fall’. Hated it for the reasons rehearsed above @ PMNewton and Nicci Gerrard, both of whom put it much better than I ever could. It was late Hitchcock (no, not ‘Family Plot’, more ‘Frenzy’) with rather a lot of Michael Powell’s ‘Peeping Tom’ (excellent German lead actor, ahem!) in the mix, then cubed.

  15. I found The Fall very upsetting, and quit watching because I didn’t want the images and people in my head. Envy you the Iceland adventure.

  16. I watched the first series (actually think they’re pushing it a bit, making a second series when it could have been nicely wrapped up in one…) The trouble is, there are so few good British tv dramas about at the moment that I’m grateful for anything half decent (The Newsroom and The Knick on Sky Atlantic are the only things I can find, and they are obviously American!) There was a short scene in the first series where Gillian Anderson saw a policeman she fancied the look of, got her driver to stop, and gave him her hotel room number…I assume they were trying to say, hey, both sexes are capable of objectification – but it’s hardly on the same scale is it? And I do find it hard to believe a high-flying, ambitious, politically minded female police officer would do that…I’d watch a couple of episodes, see what you think, but definitely start at series 1, as 2 leads straight on from the end of 1.

    • Thanks crimeworm, and sorry for the delay in responding.

      My overall feeling from all of the comments that have come in is that The Fall has very confused gender politics (ball-breaking, sexually liberated female police officer vs woman as completely objectified victim). Or perhaps, reading that back, it’s a problem of extremes?

      Kathy D’s made some good suggestions for quality crime drama in the following comment. But perhaps you’ve already ticked those off the list? Our problem is that we have insatiable appetites for top crime drama and supply can’t always meet demand!

  17. I’m on the fence about watching The Fall. I have it on reserve at the library. Maybe I’ll watch it in daylight and a bit at a time.
    On the topic of British TV crime dramas, some good ones are Broadchurch, The Escape Artist, starring David Tennant. Also, The Bletchley Circle. Also, Smith and Bailey is good. I saw the first season of Line of Duty and it turned out to be an excellent first year. I await the second year.
    There is the Welsh drama Hinterland, a bit shocking, but fascinating.
    Gracepoint is being shown over here; it is a U.S.-made Broadchurch, with David Tennant. But Olivia Coleman was tossed in favor of a more glamorous actor, Anna Gunn. She is actually good at this role, although the point of substituting a blonder, more “attractive” actor for a British actress who may not be as acceptable to Hollywood producers, is rather annoying. David Tennant was cast for the U.S. role, after playing it in Britain. It’s just an observation.

    • Thanks for all these recommendations, Kathy. I’ve seen the second season of Line of Duty and was completely gripped. One for you to look forward to…

      Gracepoint: that information about Olivia Coleman’s recasting is so interesting. What fools they were to trade her in for a more glamorous model – she’s such a great actor and the chemistry between her and Tennant was really good. Depressing, even if the replacement did do a good job.

  18. Everyone must see The Escape Artist with David Tennant and Sophie Okonadu. Unbelievably good performances, a match of wits in two directions. If shows over here were that good, I’d never turn off the television set.

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