We examine the chalk outlines and burning question marks surrounding the infamous casualties of Scandi crime
The character-driven plots of Nordic Noir often spotlight the flawed detectives and their personal entanglements when it comes to solving some of the most harrowing cases of their career. However, while we are drawn into the suspenseful journey of discovering the identity of the psychotic killer and how their rampage will end, the narrative would not exist without the inciting incident: the victims of Noir.
We take a look at some of the highest profile of Scandi crime cases, including corpses, disappearances and debilitating accusations which have impacted the television series and films from the realm of Nordic Noir.
Nanna Birk Larsen – The Killing I (2007)
At the beginning of the first season we are catapulted immediately into a terrifying chase through Pinseskoven (the Pentecost Woods) only to find out later that this is to be the final moments in the life of Nanna Birk Larsen. In a similar tone to the grand-scale mystery of Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks (1990-1991), we learn about Nanna’s character through flashbacks and revelations that taint her pristine image perpetuated by her grieving parents Theis and Pernille Birk Larsen. Her duplicitous lifestyle links her to school basement sex games, a romance with her childhood friend and even to the corrupt campaign of ambitious mayoral candidate Troels Hartmann.
Kerstin Ekwall – The Bridge I (2011)
During a 45 second blackout just after midnight, a corpse is found in the middle of the Øresund Bridge; straddling the border between Denmark and Sweden. Upon further inspection of the severed body, it is discovered that the head and torse belong to the Chairman of Malmo City Council Kerstin Ekwall, whilst the legs are from Danish prostitute Monique Brammer. Kerstin Ekwall’s husband is bemused by Saga Norén’s questioning the night she is found. With no disgruntled opposition in her work – other than wanting to charge for library book loans – her involvement in the killer’s plan is obscure until the killer’s identity is revealed.
Harriet Vanger – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
A 40 year old mystery is never forgotten by former industrialist and retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation Henrik Vanger. His niece Harriet vanishes without a trace from the mansion on Hedeby Island, off the mainland of Hedestad, during Children’s Festival in 1966. One of the only likeable members of the despicable Vanger family with ties to the Nazi regime, Harriet was seen as Henrik’s protégé, before her brother Martin took over the reins of the business. Following her sexual abuse from tyrannical father Gottfried Vanger, Harriet turned to the Bible to uncover the suspicious crimes she stumbled upon; linking them to the Vanger family. Harriet is remembered by journalist Mikael Blomkvist, having looked after him as a child when he visited Hedeby. Her memory is also haunting Henrik who interprets the annual framed pressed flowers he receives as a nefarious reminder by her “murderer”. With a desire to escape, Harriet’s resemblance to cousin Anita comes in handy and also provides a key in Blomkvist’s investigation, with the help of Lisbeth Salander.
Tanja Lorentzen – Insomnia (1997)
Comparable to the opening of The Killing I, the brutal killing of seventeen year-old Tanja Lorentzen opens Erik Skjoldbjærg’s chilling film. However, the grainy Super 8 image of the prologue depicts the murder in a blunt, first-person perspective. Set in Tromsø, located approximately two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle in the northern region of Norway, policemen Erik Vik and Jonas Engström are tasked to investigate. The violent death the audience witnessed is carried out by a local writer Jon Holt who became involved with Tanja. However, due to Engström’s fatal accident during a stakeout, Tanja’s boyfriend is targeted as the culprit in a cover-up concocted by both Engström and Holt. Both Tanja’s death and the uninviting environment of her hometown are catalysts in this disturbingly immoral tale.
Merete Lynggaard – The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013)
After five years, a politician – the vice-chairperson of the Democratic Party – Merete Lynggaard is assumed dead and reduced to a cold case file in the forgotten depths of ‘Department Q’. However, detective Carl Mørck is determined to solve her disappearance to rise back into the ranks of the homicide squad. Lynggaard went missing whilst aboard a ferry with her mentally handicapped brother Uffe. In fact, Merete has been imprisoned in a compression chamber and tortured with bouts of increased air pressure. This prolonged and methodical torment breaks her down emotionally and physically as she is deprived of daylight and her senses are toyed with. Despite her captor threatening to release all of the air pressure on a tragic anniversary he holds her accountable for, Merete’s willpower perseveres.
Marianne Wallman – Crimes of Passion: Death of a Loved One (2013)
The celebrations of Midsummer on a picturesque island in remote Sweden start with the ritual drinking of Schnapps and dancing on table-tops. Perhaps an obvious first victim of the bunch, Marianne exudes an unbridled sexuality which ends in her lifeless body found by amateur sleuth Puck Ekstedt. Her strangled corpse isn’t left unattended for too long in the forest and is moved to a better hiding place, with Puck viewed as having an over-active imagination in the eyes of love interest Eje. Marianne causes a stir with her fashionably late entrance and a provocatively red coloured scarf. Tensions rise especially with the party host Rutger (her past fiancé) and best friend Viveka; someone who cares about her dangerously too much.
Maria Lövgren – Wallander: Faceless Killers (1995)
A memorable murder to launch Henning Mankell’s Wallander novel adaptations onto television screens back in 1995. The original Kurt Wallander, played by Rolf Lassgård, is called to a farmhouse in Lunnarp; the home of elderly couple Johannes and Maria Lövgren. The couple are bound with a unique knot and tortured, leaving husband Johannes dead from his wounds. However, Maria is found alive in a critical condition. Sadly, she succumbs to the cruelty of the night’s proceedings and her final words spark a controversial investigation; pointing towards the rising population of immigrants in Sweden. Maria utters the ambiguous adjective “foreign” which results in a racially-charged witch-hunt in the once peaceful county of Skåne.
Stine Christofferson – Accused (2005)
14-year-old Stine has a history of making things up and her recent claim of sexual abuse by her father Henrik Christofferson is not taken seriously by her parents, especially her mother Nina. It isn’t until the final act of the film when the audience finally sees Stine on-screen with her parents. Before this, we only really see Stine via a recorded interview at a court hearing. Throughout the film, we follow Henrik and Nina as their relationship is tested by paranoia and doubt from the people around them. Stine appears once the charges are deemed as unfounded accusations. She is brought to a private meeting with Henrik, agreed upon by social services after his release from prison. It is here that we find out the truth and form our own relationship with Stine’s character.
Lucas – The Hunt (2012)
Accusations of paedophilia and the consequences that lead to hostile reactions of persecution in a tightly-knit community are also dealt with in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. However, the victimised character is clearly schoolteacher Lucas. The Christmas holidays are fast approaching and divorcee Lucas is looking forward to seeing his son Marcus. He dismisses the allegation that the daughter of a family friend and student, Klara, is spreading a lie about his inappropriate behaviour. Lucas’ life is thrown into turmoil as, once a pillar of society, the townsfolk turn against him. He is verbally and physically attacked and refused service at the local supermarket due to his tainted reputation. This only empowers Lucas to make a stand and refuse to be a victim of rumours. Church congregations do not even faze him from his defensive demonstrations. However, the lie lingers and Lucas may never be rid of the shadow of doubt.
Josefine Thörnblad – Jordskott (2015)
At aged six, Josefine, the daughter of detective Eva Thörnblad, was presumed dead. An afternoon spent by the lake in Silverhöjd Forest with her mother ended in her sudden disappearance. Seven years later, Eva returns to Silverhöjd in the wake of the death her father Johan; a local tycoon of the Thörnblad Cellulosa Company. Josefine miraculously re-appears in a despondent state at the edge of the forest, much to Eva’s surprise. During her recovery in the hospital Josefine shows a fascination towards plant life and soil which is somewhat unnerving. The results of bizarre supernatural exposure from the elements in the woodland reduce Josefine to a zombie-like shell of her former self. Josefine’s re-appearance unearths more questions than answers about who is to blame for this twisted fairy-tale not entirely grounded in reality.