movie film review | chris tookey

Killing/ Forbrydelsen (TV)

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  Killing/ Forbrydelsen (TV) Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
9.25 /10
Sofie Grabol , Soren Malling , Troels Il Munk
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Directed by: Kristoffer Nyholm, Fabian Wullenweber,Charlotte Sieling,Henrik Ruben Genz,Birger Larsen,Natasha Arthy,Mikkel Serup, Kathrine Windfeld,Morten Arnfred,Morten Kohlert
Written by: Soren Sveistrup, Torleif Hoppe, Michael W. Horsten, Per Daumiller Created by Soren Sveistrup

Released: 2007
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: Denmark/ German/ Sweden/ Norway
Length: 0

In Copenhagen, detective inspector Sarah Lund (Sofie Grabol, pictured centre) has to break off her move to Sweden with her boyfriend, in order to investigate the kidnap, murder and rape of a 19-year-old girl.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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I was surprised by how few critics spotted the similarities in tone and content between this series and David Lynch’s quirky American predecessor, Twin Peaks. But where Twin Peaks used the death of a teenager as a jumping-off point for a study of a small community, the first series of The Killing - though set in the much larger town of Copenhagen - was much more tightly focussed: it managed to sustain audience interest in its single murder case over twenty 50-minute episodes. One reason it succeeded with audiences is that it made movingly real the suffering of the dead girl’s parents, superbly played by Bjarne Henriksen (pictured extreme right) and Ann Eleanora Jorgensen (second from right). Particularly clever was the way the mother’s determination to find the killer mirrored the heroine’s. This gave the series the extra impact of having two leading ladies.

A second innovation was that it investigated the effects on Danish society of such a traumatic event, in particular its impact on the mayoral candidacy of Troels Hartmann (capably played by Lars Mikkelsen, pictured third from left, with a hint of menace behind his charming exterior). I was reminded of the traumatic aftermath of the Moors murders and the James Bulger case. Too many murder thrillers trivialise the consequences of murder, and few bother to analyse the political ramifications.

The producer Piv Bernth accurately summarised in 2012 one reason why the show achieved international success: its ability to examine a crime in depth, from different angles. "It's the first time you have a detective drama over 20 episodes – other series had one killing per episode. And we also have this three-plot structure – what does it [a murder] mean for a police investigator, what does it mean for the parents, what does it mean for the politicians. It's not just about finding the murderer. That's important, but it's not all."

Another asset was an unusually fascinating central heroine: deeply flawed, undervalued (even by her own mother) but thoroughly committed to solving the crime, however long it took her and at whatever the personal cost. Sofie Grabol made Sarah Lund the strongest female character on television. She was extraordinarily charismatic despite her stoical tendency to wear the same jeans and jumper virtually throughout. The emotionally distant way she handled her personal and professional relationships was intriguing, and paved the way for the borderline-autistic heroine of The Bridge. No male detective protagonist would have had to undergo the family and job pressures that Sarah Lund had to go through; this made her deeply sympathetic, a landmark in screen heroines.

As actress Sofie Grabel once told the Wall Street Journal, “There is something about her completely uncompromising connection with her inner self that is so inspiring. I think that’s why people tend to like this character and forgive her everything. Because she has so many unsympathetic sides: she is nonsocial, she isn’t very empathic, she lets everyone down, and she is only loyal to the deep core in herself. I feel that way, too. And that trait in her to be so true to herself is inspiring.”

The plotting made good use of an excellent supporting cast, virtually all of whom were suspects at some time or another. In retrospect, not every act performed by the characters was plausible within the context of a murder investigation, but the series was notable for the number and quality of its cliffhangers. If it had been a novel, it would have been a page-turner.

As with Borgen, a later product of this company, there were elements of political correctness in the plotting. It was obvious that one of the earliest suspects could not possibly be the killer because he was of Arab ethnicity. Similarly, it was possible to guess the identity of the killer rather too early, purely on grounds of political incorrectness.

My 10/10 rating is for the first series. The second (which was half the length, slicker but much less gripping) merited 6/10 and the third (about another kidnapping) , 8/10. I didn’t think the second series was anywhere near the level of the first, and the much improved third series had a rushed, unconvincing final episode that belittled the heroine by undermining her professionalism. But the first series was unmatched in television, and even the other two are worth watching.

There was an inferior American remake, also entitled The Killing, which crammed most of the Danish first-season plot into ten episodes. The three leading performances aren’t bad, but it was a mistake to make the detective heroine of the US version much friendlier and more sociable, and less intense. Watch the original, if you want to be moved and gripped..

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