The Killing – BBC4 Series 2 Trailer

For some reason, I’m particularly missing the wondrousness that is The Killing at the moment.

BBC4 has thoughtfully supplied a glimpse of autumn’s Series 2 to allieviate my withdrawal symptoms. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear Danish! 

‘It’s good to see you again…’

Note: BBC4 rates the clip as suitable for 16+ only.

Pssst! No word from BBC4 as yet, but there was an article in The Guardian the other day (about jumpers!), which referenced Sarah Lund as a style icon and let slip a start date of mid-November for The Killing 2.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/fashion/2011/oct/18/jumpers

 

BBC4’s The Killing – BAFTA International Winner 2011

A quick post in celebration of The Killing’s BAFTA win last night.

This low-budget Danish crime drama beat off stiff competition from Mad Men, Glee and Boardwalk Empire to take the International Prize for 2011. There couldn’t have been a more deserving winner in my view: a cracking day for quality Danish and European crime drama.

Lovely footage below of the award and a brief backstage interview with Piv Bernth (producer), Sophie Grabol (Sarah Lund), Soren Svelstrup (writer) and Birger Larsen (lead director).

(If the arrow button doesn’t take you through directly, just click on the ‘Watch on YouTube’ link that appears. Tak!)

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For other Mrs. Peabody posts on this programme, click on ‘The Killing’ tag (bottom right-hand side of page). No spoilers 🙂

BBC4’s Wallander – Series 2 with Krister Henriksson

BBC4 has started repeating the second series of Swedish TV’s Wallander (2009-10) on successive Saturdays at 9pm. I managed to catch up with the first episode today, having had a prior engagement with Wales’ finest, The Manic Street Preachers, in Cardiff last night (splendid as ever).

This series has Krister Henriksson in the lead role. As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve always been more partial to Rolf Lassgård’s portrayal of Wallander in the film adaptations of Mankell’s novels between 2004 and 2007. But I’ve decided to give Henriksson a proper go, having realised that I’d only caught odd episodes with him over the years, rather than watching an entire series through from start to finish.

Krister Henriksson

This Saturday’s episode (21 May), entitled ‘The Revenge’  (‘Hämnden’), begins with Wallander celebrating his move to a dream house by the sea. The party is rudely interrupted by an apparent terrorist act, the bombing of Ystad’s power-station, which plunges the town into darkness. The next morning, a man is found murdered in his home, and the rather hungover investigative team is forced to ask: are the two crimes coincidence or could they be in some way linked?

I really enjoyed this opener. Based on an original storyline rather than on one of the Mankell novels, it was well-plotted, well-written and had a few nice spine-tingler moments (keep plenty of spare torches to hand in case of a power cut, everyone). The acting was excellent, and there was promising interplay between Wallander and the rest of the team, especially trainee policewoman Isabell Melin, who challenges Wallander’s rather outdated views on gender. The episode also introduces public prosecutor Katarina Ahlsell, one of those strong female characters of whom Mrs P. is so fond (played by Lena Andre, who also plays Erika Berger in the Swedish film of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

While drawing on original material, the episode still feels very Wallander-y. Its tone is very close to that of the books, successfully incorporating social critique into the narrative of the police investigation.

And the rather morose-looking Henriksson as Wallander? Yes, alright, there’s some promise there. I’ll do my best to put Rolf to one side for now and let Henriksson do his stuff.

Episode 1 is repeated this coming Wednesday, and will be available on iplayer for another few days.

Update – 16 July. I’ve just watched the 9th episode in the series, ‘The Angel of Death’. At this point, I find that I’ve grown to appreciate Henriksson’s quieter, steadier depiction of Wallander. But oh dear, what a crazy, melodramatic conclusion this episode had! It knocked down a number of stereotypes, only to replace them with an even larger one when the murderer and his/her motivation was revealed. Tsk!

Update – 16 August I’ve just caught up on the 13th and final episode in the series, ‘Vittnet’ (The Witness), which was very good. The story focused on the trafficking and exploitation of illegal workers, and the difficulties of successfully prosecuting those at the top due to the intimidation of witnesses, as well as members of the police and judicial system (such as Wallander and Katarina). There was a nice dissection of the way that Swedish local government and firms subcontract their business for a reduced price to others, and then turn a blind eye to the horrendous working hours and conditions on their building sites. This probably sounds a bit worthy and dry, but wasn’t, as there was a strong human dimension to the storylines, and a touchingly upbeat ending, which I rather liked, having just read The Troubled Man (review to follow soon).

BBC4 Spiral Season 3: Was I wrong to stop watching?!

In an earlier post I gave my reaction to the first two episodes of the French police procedural series Spiral (Engrenage).

It was a bit mixed: while I enjoyed the charactisation of Laure Berthaud and the urban noir feel, I was somewhat put off by the grisly autopsy scenes.

And although I said at the end of the post I would probably continue watching, I didn’t return the following Saturday (something came up, the hamster needed cleaning out, you know how it is…). And that was that – I never quite managed to catch up.

Now that the series has finished, my question to Spiral-watchers is:

  • Have I make a grave mistake (pardonnez the pun)?
  • Should I give Spiral another go?
  • If you think I should have kept watching, should I start at series 1 and work my way through in order, or just dive in with series 3?

Answers on a postcard please…or by comment below.

Merci!

BBC4 Spiral Season 3: The Butcher of La Villette

Tonight I caught the first two episodes of the French police procedural series Spiral (Engrenage in the original; literal translation ‘gears’).

My primary reason for watching Spiral was to fill the two-hour viewing gap left by The Killing, but I was also curious about the French series, having heard praise for seasons 1 and 2.  It was a interesting start tonight, and could easily become compelling viewing for me, as this crime drama features yet another strong female investigator, Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust). As in The Killing, the first two episodes also set up a number of complex characters, plotlines and intrigues, and redefine our image of the cities in question by focusing on the gritty underbellies of Copenhagen and Paris (the Little Mermaid and Eiffel Tower are conspicuous by their absence).

I wasn’t as gripped by the opening episodes of Spiral as those of The Killing, but then again, this might be an unfair expectation, especially as I’m coming in cold to season 3, and don’t have the in-depth knowledge of the investigative team that has been built up over previous two seasons.

One aspect I really didn’t like, however, was the graphic nature of the autopsy scenes. While a key focus of the series is forensic policework, I’m not convinced it was necessary to provide so much stomach-churning visual detail. And a side-effect of covering my eyes during those scenes was that I was unable to read the subtitles, thus no doubt missing vital clues!

So a slightly mixed experience for this viewer. But I reckon I’ll be back for another two episodes next week. Those who are intending to watch the whole series (10 parts) will be interested to know that The Guardian is blogging Spiral 3 episode by episode. A splendid public service. Merci!

The end of BBC4’s The Killing: crime drama at its very best

Mrs Peabody’s review of the first two episodes is available here.

So BBC4’s The Killing has finished. Twenty hours of superb crime drama, which had 500,000 of us gripped for two hours every single week, aired its last two episodes last night.

The Killing maintained its suspense and quality in a quite remarkable fashion over each of its 20 episodes. In Sarah Lund, it gave us a gritty, obsessive and sometimes flawed investigator, who won our hearts with her single-minded determination and her jumpers. And last night, it delivered a nail-biting and utterly gripping denouement that was Shakespearian in its tragedy and pathos. We ended, with perfect circularity, in the woods where we started Nanna’s story – one last, lovely touch. 

In line with the policy of Mrs. Peabody Investigates, no spoilers are given here. But if you would like to know whodunnit and to read some cogent analysis of the last two epiosodes, the place to go is Vicky Frost’s excellent blog at The Guardian. I might add that my guess at the murderer was completely wrong (and many others on Twitter had smugly got it right). At some point, I’ll be watching the whole 20 episodes again in the knowledge of who committed the murder – which I’m sure will be an equally rewarding viewing experience.

Lund and Meyer, we’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know. Already looking forward to Series 2 later this year.

31 March: Lund makes the cover of G2! Full article available here.

An odd case of Zen-o-phobia as BBC decides not to recommission TV series

I’ve just seen a post on the It’s a Crime (or a Mystery) blog reporting that the BBC has decided not to recommission the Aurelio Zen TV series. This really does seem to be a short-sighted move given its evident popularity. It seemed to grow on people over time as well – a slow burner that had the potential to turn into something significantly bigger. There’s still a chance that another channel will want to pick it up, but what a missed opportunity for the BBC, which has been showing such excellent taste lately with The Killing.  

How could anyone not want to recommission this stylish police investigator?!

For further details and links, see the post on It’s a Crime (or a Mystery). Lots of comments are being left there to encourage the BBC to reconsider. Do add your own if you feel moved to do so.

BBC4 buys second series of The Killing / Forbrydelsen

Excellent news for fans of The Killing: it’s been confirmed today that BBC4 has bought the rights to the second series (10 episodes) and that it will air later this year.

‘The Killing is the most intensely thrilling televison drama experience in British broadcasting of the moment and I’m delighted that series two will be on BBC Four. It is a diamond of a series – complex, dramatic, thoroughly gripping. It never loses sight of its truly brilliant insight: the humanity and the emotion that goes on behind a police investigation into a brutal and sordid murder. At its heart, this is The Killing‘s genius – to truly portray the human cost of tragedy. And it is to the BBC’s acquisition department that real credit lies for the clever discretionary spot-and-pick-up of a gem of a series’ – Richard Klein, controller of BBC4.

For full details, see Neil Midgley’s article in The Telegraph

The ‘crime-loving library borrowers’ of 2010

Last Saturday’s Guardian (19.02.11) carried a list of the top 100 books borrowed from UK libraries in 2010, along with a piece by John Dugdale on ‘the crime-loving borrowers’.

It turns out that almost two-thirds of the books on the most borrowed list are crime novels or thrillers, including the whole of the top 10 (four Pattersons, two Rankins, and one Child, Brown, Connelly and Slaughter respectively). Impressive stuff, and Dugdale explores a few of the reasons why this might be the case.

But the bit that caught my eye was this:

‘Stieg Larsson (who had the top three places in the sales chart) is relegated to a single entry in 76th place. Library users, this suggests, are less keen on Euro-crime, less responsive to the stimulus of TV or film adaptations, and not fond of lengthy, heavy tomes. What they want instead are American or American-style murder stories that are quick reads…’

What struck me was how much Dugdale ‘deduced’ from one statistic, and I’m wondering if he wasn’t being a little over-hasty in the assertions he made. After all, there’s an extremely complex set of factors that have contributed to Larsson’s position on the list in particular, and to the absence of other examples of Euro-crime in general.

Larsson first. Dugdale quite rightly notes the contrast between the 76th position on the list of The Girl who Played with Fire and Larsson’s dominance of the 2010 UK sales chart. This would actually suggest that readers liked the Millenium Trilogy so much that they wanted to buy it and keep it, rather than to borrow it and give it back. So ironically, it could well be the enormous ‘must have’ success of this crime series that has contributed to its lower position on the library chart. And (ahem), do such ‘lengthy heavy tomes’ really put libary readers off? The presence of Hilary Mantell’s doorstopper Wolf Hall at number 24 appears to suggest otherwise.

Larsson, of course, is a Euro-crime-writing phenomenon, whose world-wide sales were already in excess of 12 million by 2008. Other Euro-crime novels typically have a much bigger hill to climb before making it on to annual lists like these.

Firstly, European crime fiction has to be ‘found’ and translated by a sympathetic publisher like Maclehose. Only a modest selection make it. It’s inevitable, therefore, that the sales and borrowing figures for Euro-crime will reflect the smaller number of  Euro-crime novels that are in print compared with those produced for the massive Anglo-American market. Given this, it’s hardly surprising that only the truly big hitters like Larsson manage inclusion in the top 100.

I’d accept that publishers sometimes have a challenging time convincing a readership reared on a largely British and American cultural diet that European fiction – crime or otherwise – is worth reading. But I’m wondering if the recent surge of Euro-crime dramas on BBC4 is beginning to shift the perceptions of a more mainstream audience towards ‘foreign’ imports. The incredibly positive reaction to the Danish series The Killing is a case in point. One interesting observation from a couple of viewers has been how surprised they are to be enjoying a subtitled programme so much. So perhaps the success of quality foreign-language crime series like this will turn more people on to the wealth of excellent European crime fiction and TV out there. I really do hope that this is the case.

Ratking: Dibdin’s Zen vs BBC4’s TV adaptation

I’ve just finished reading the first of the Aurelio Zen novels by Michael Dibdin – Ratking – which was published in 1988. Like many new Zen readers, I bought the book after enjoying the BBC adaptations, but was also interested to see how the two compared, having heard that the TV episodes diverged somewhat from their source material.

I’d say that the TV adaptation of Ratking is loosely faithful to the novel, in the sense that both the reader and the viewer see Zen operating as a Venetian ‘outsider’ in a corrupt Italian policing system, and are aware of the dangers he faces should he make the wrong investigative/political move. But the Zen of the book is not the sharp-suited Italian of TV’s Rufus Sewell; nor is he shown negotiating with representatives from the higher echelons of government (he’s far too unimportant). And while the framework Ratking’s plot is taken up to some extent in the TV version, some aspects were significantly altered, like (ahem) the identity of the murderer.

I did, however, enjoy the novel exceedingly. Zen is nicely characterised, and the novel provides an intriguing insight into Italian society at the end of ‘the years of lead’ (a period of terrorism and kidnappings that lasted from the 1960s to the 1980s). It also provides a sharp critique of the power wielded by rich Italian families, and their immunity from the normal rules and regulations of society: sophisticated and cultured on the outside, but decadent and corrupt within. Well-written and entertaining, the novel only dipped slightly for me at the end, when the plot became a touch melodramatic. But it’s certainly worth a read, and I’m looking forward to sampling others from the series.

It’s interesting to compare the packaging of Ratking editions past and present: on the left, moody Italian cobbles, shadows and trilby-wearing detective; on the right, the star power of Rufus Sewell as Zen. With thanks to Peabody Jnr for technical assistance with the images.