Thursday 2 August 2012

Nordic Noir Character Smörgåsbord

Oscar Svendsen wakes up, terrified and bloodied; a shotgun in his hands, in what was once a respectable strip joint near Svinesund, Sweden. He is surrounded by eight bodies, and police detective Solør has a gun aimed at his chest. Solør is convinced of his guilt, but Oscar persistently denies any wrongdoing.

Reluctantly Oscar starts relating the incredible story of four men who won top prize in a soccer pool and suddenly found themselves 1,739,361 kroner richer. But it turned out to be difficult to divide the money by four.

Jackpot is an exciting, playful and bloody comedy from the producer of Cold Prey. It is based on a story by Norway's leading crime writer, Jo Nesbø. We meet a group of scruffy young men, all of them with a criminal background. Oscar (Kyrre Hellum), Thor (Mads Ousdal), Billy (Arthur Berning) and Tresko (Andreas Cappelen). They work at a factory in the middle of nowhere that makes plastic Christmas trees. And they bet on soccer…

To celebrate the film’s release in cinemas across the UK on August 10th, we thought we'd take the opportunity to look at some of the most memorable characters in Scandinavian crime fiction, from the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to the melancholy of Kurt Wallander...

Lisbeth Salander

Salander is the embodiment of feminist cool in the 21st century; a woman who takes the worst of what the world can throw at her, and spits it right back in its face before teaching that world a harsh lesson or two about manners. With a photographic memory and formidable hacking skills, she has the ability to take down anyone from a petty thief to the corrupt elite, and uses those powers for good even if her actions are – more often than not – technically illegal.

 The one thing that she’s struggled with, however, is a sustainable social life, and when the much-chased Mikael Blomkvist enters her life, she’s faced with the daunting prospect of bringing down her defences to someone for the first time. It should come as no surprise that this relationship is something of a bumpy ride throughout Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series.

Sarah Lund
As the key investigator in hit Danish TV series The Killing, Sarah Lund is a welcome departure from some of the worn-out female character tropes of Nordic Noir. Her steely determination and dedication to the case bring back memories of DCI Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect, while her independence and fearlessness are reminiscent of Amelia Donaghy in the Bone Collector. In short, she’d be part of any dream team of female TV and movie detectives who’d teach the men a thing or two.

Which is lucky, because she needs all of her wits and cunning to solve the particularly fiendish case at the centre of The Killing’s plot. When so many around her manage to lose their heads, she always seems to keep hers – Sarah Lund, we salute you.

Mikael Blomkvist

Where there is a Yin, there is a Yang, and where there’s a force of nature like Lisbeth Salander, there has to be a Mikael Blomkvist to balance out the universe. He starts out Larsson’s Millennium Series in a state of disrepute after being bankrupted in a court case for making uncorroborated claims against a businessman and social high-flyer in Sweden.

From here he’s compelled to take on investigative work away from the prying eyes of the media in which he was once a key figure. And it’s in this work that he crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, where his methodical investigative work and her gutsy, determined attitude form the perfect balance: Blomkvist the scalpel, and Salander the katana sword.

Kurt Wallander

If you read Scandinavian crime fiction for long enough, eventually you’ll come across a pattern – many of the older, male detectives have self-destructive lifestyles and a tortuous past. Take Kurt Wallander, for example: he was nearly killed in a stabbing as a young police officer; his wife left him and he retains a difficult relationship with his daughter, Linda, who attempted to commit suicide as a teenager; he’s been falsely sued for police brutality, drinks and consumes junk food destructively, and in later books contracts diabetes and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In short, his life’s a train wreck.

His potent talent for police work is perhaps a saving grace and a curse, then. On the one hand, he throws himself deep into his work in order to forget the other problems in his life; on the other, those problems are often a result of his tireless dedication to the job. We’re pretty certain he’d have had a happier life as the opera singer he dreams of being.

Saga Noren and Martin Rohde

The duo form the principal protagonists of hit TV series, The Bridge. Swedish homicide detective, Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) and her Danish counterpart, Martin Rohde (Kim Bohdnia) work together to solve a mystery  involving the dead body of a woman found on the Øresund Bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden.

Both characters have very different personalities, but are forced to look past this as they head-up their respective country’s investigation. Noren is a single woman who rarely involves herself in anything serious with the opposite sex – her ideal type of relationship is taking somebody home from a bar at the end of the night. Signs of autism are also exhibited in Noren’s character, particularly a lack of social skills, which she identifies as a reason not to further her career into management.

On the contrary, Martin Rohde is a family man who has been married twice with a number of kids. Compared to Saga – who always looks the part – Martin doesn’t care much about his appearance and usually turns up for work in scruffy attire. So it’s a kind of opposites attract situation then, or rather an opposites-must-get-along-for-the-good-of-two-nations situation, and it drives The Bridge’s drama along well.


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