The Nordic Effect on International Remakes

The popular trend of Nordic Noir and Scandinavian drama is far from over…

Sweden has arguably pioneered the prolific genre with critically acclaimed literary adaptations from its collection of revered authors. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and Henning Mankell’s Wallander franchise propagated the visual vernacular that redefined the Noir aesthetic. This movement continued with an assortment of captivating crime thrillers, such as The Killing (2007-2012) and The Bridge (2011- ), as well as profound dramas including Borgen (2010-2013) and The Legacy (2014- ) to shape the modern remit of quality Scandinavian television, spearheaded by Denmark.

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The complicated, multi-layered narratives with imperfect antiheros at the core explain the impressive longevity of Nordic programmes and their loyal viewership. The appeal created a ripple effect; beguiling international audiences with original shows broadcast on BBC, which, in turn, has led to the surge in English-language remakes. From the UK, Kenneth Branagh’s take on the pensive detective Wallander (2008) celebrates its fourth season this year. The US version of The Killing took the show in a different direction, with Mireille Enos embodying the female heroine made famous by Sofie Gråbøl. Yet the series maintained a Scandinavian element to the production with Swedish born actor Joel Kinnaman (the Easy Money Trilogy, 2010-2013) in a lead role.

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However, not all remakes were as greatly received. Those Who Kill (2011), starring Lars Mikkelsen did not fare so well in the US. The remake starring Chloë Sevigny and James D’Arcy was not extended for a second season run. Diane Kruger stepped into Sofia Helin’s socially awkward shoes in the US relocation of The Bridge (2013-2014); set on the Texas-Mexico border, which was also cancelled. This left the British-French remake The Tunnel (2013- ) with Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy to succeed in its wake.

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This has not affected the future of the Nordic remake cycle. Those that are being eyed up and commissioned as we speak include an American version of The Legacy, which Doug Liman is reported to be in line to produce. While the Swedish Science Fiction drama Real Humans (2012) has evolved into the American-British series Humans for Channel 4 and AMC, to air in 2015. Digital Spy point out that the Norwegian crime miniseries Mammon (2014) and Danish action drama Unit One (2000-2004) have not quite made the same impression with an international fan base and have yet to be circled for a Western re-imagining. The recent success of Norway’s top-rated drama Acquitted, following its premiere on TV2, earlier this month, attracted 660,000 viewers and may be the next series destined for a translation.