From the extraordinary legacies of Scandinavian crime and drama with their compulsive and mesmeric fictional worlds that continue to astound us, we applaud and acknowledge the greatest and most significant moments in Nordic Noir this year.
1. Celebrating the life of the late Henning Mankell
The paramount and devastating moment for Nordic Noir fans this year has been the breaking news of the death of Henning Mankell; iconic crime fiction writer of the Wallander series and formidable civil rights activist. Having been diagnosed with cancer in 2014, the sudden deterioration of the literary icon’s health made the sorrowful news all the more shocking. Mankell not only leaves behind a legacy as a pioneer of the arts in Scandinavian literature from his best-selling novels, but as a remarkable humanitarian who promoted charitable initiatives in Africa and challenged political and social controversies from Apartheid to the Vietnam War. We choose to celebrate and commemorate the incredible impact of Henning Mankell’s life’s work that will live on forever.
2. Nordicana 2015
The crème de la crème of Scandi crime and drama took to the stage at the Troxy theatre in East London for the Nordicana: Nordic Noir & Beyond Live 2015 festival between 6th – 7th June. Visitors were treated to Scandinavian delicacies from the Stockholm Deli and Fika, browsing book stalls and merchandise all before watching advanced screenings from critically acclaimed series such as the Euro Noir Witnesses and The Saboteurs. The magnanimous programme included signings from Borgen producer Camilla Hammerich, festival host and author Barry Forshaw and audience Q&As with Sofia Helin, Moa Gammel, the stars from The Legacy and 1864. Søren Manning’s surprise on-stage appearance during leading Nordic Noir actress Sofie Gråbøl’s conversation shall never be forgotten.
3. The 20th anniversary of Dogme95
Back in 1995, an inventive cinematic movement began in Denmark by two visionaries: Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. The idea to abide by a set of rules to represent realism in film, as inspired by François Truffaut, attracted a filmmaking collective. Despite the group’s artistic efforts to pursue the conventions of the Dogme95, the band dismantled after ten years. Nevertheless, a platform was created for the burgeoning talents of Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, Kristian Levring, Lone Scherfig and Susanne Bier, as well as international participation from the likes of Jean-Marc Barr, Harmony Korine and José Luis Márques. Vinterberg’s Festen (1998) and von Trier’s The Idiots (1998) were the first films released from the contentious canon that are still being discussed in infamy today.
4. The return of Saga in The Bridge III
The Swedish actress Sofia Helin, whose portrayal of a fractured detective operating along the autistic spectrum and struggling to be understood for her brilliant detective acumen, catapulted to success from the first season in 2011. When main star Kim Bodnia publicly confirmed his dissatisfaction with Martin Rohde’s character arc that convinced him to quit the show, fans of The Bridge were understandably disappointed. Fears that the long-awaited return would be a disaster, the new casting and direction of the third season has fleshed out the unique and fascinating personality of Saga Norén to greater depths. We wanted to see more of Helin’s award-winning performance and we got it. Not since the ground-breaking crime show The Killing that reached a shocking climax in 2012 has there been a series with a definable heroine at its core. The Bridge III recently finished airing on BBC Four, leaving us wanting a fourth season.
5. Sky Atlantic’s London promo campaign for Fortitude
Combining the Nordic Noir elements with a Lost and Twin Peaks style mystery, Fortitude transcended the popular crime genre with a similarly Scandinavian setting on an international scale. The innovative and high quality production of the series from Sky Atlantic lured stars from the UK (Christopher Eccleston and Michael Gambon), Hollywood (Stanley Tucci) and Scandinavia (Sofie Gråbøl) together. Before the first episode premiered, a cutting-edge marketing ploy caught the attention of Londoners with a life-size replica of a polar bear (controlled by internal puppeteers) appearing in conspicuous locations across the capital. Images of the arctic animal being spotted in the unlikeliest of places, such as the London Underground at Charing Cross station and Hampstead Heath, is especially included in MSN’s ‘Best pictures of 2015’, ranked high on the list at number eight.
6. The Legacy wins big at the Robert Festival
At the Scandinavian equivalent to the Academy Awards, The Legacy stole the show by claiming the top accolades at the 2015 awards ceremony. The prestigious wins included Best Danish TV Series, Best Actor in a TV Series for Carsten Bjørnlund, Best Actress for Trine Dyrholm, Best Supporting Actor for Mikkel Boe Følsgaard and Best Supporting Actress went to Lene Maria Christensen. Distinguished star Jesper Christensen also received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The Grønnegaard family certainly made a mark with the DR drama that could rival the dysfunctional family portrait in Vinterberg’s Festen (1998) and has already been announced to become an epic trilogy.
7. The biggest Danish production ever comes to the UK with Ole Bornedal’s 1864
This major TV event from DR depicted the Second Schleswig-Holstein War that has been one of Denmark’s greatest historical humiliations. Yet this war-time era was chosen to be committed to screen in Ole Bornedal’s epic miniseries. The ambitious, cinematic eight-episode drama boasts a magnificent production design and an evocative score, as well as the biggest budget in Danish television of 173 million kroner. The star-studded cast of Nordic talent reflected the quality of the series, including Sidse Babett Knudsen, Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling and Lars Mikkelsen joined by an impressive ensemble of young rising talent with Jakob Oftebro, Jens Sætter-Lassen, Marie Tourell Søderberg and Sarah-Sofie Boussnina.
8. The power of Borgen during the UK elections
We know that the Danish political series has been cited as a favourite for Hillary Clinton and Birgitte Nyborg is regarded as a strong female role model in Nordic television. However, the influential style of the televised debates that showcased the Prime Minister candidates vying to get elected into office, stretched even further into the political world during the 2015 UK General Elections. The seven-party live debates featured in Borgen, as hosted by TV1’s journalist Katrine Fønsmark, inspired David Cameron to agree to a similar set-up in the lead-up to the May elections. Even after the show ended on a powerful high in 2013, the impression that Borgen has left on international audiences is still present.
9. Norway’s musical festival of ice
Back in February, the town of Geilo found in the rural heights of the Hallingdal valley beckoned crowds to experience the wonders of the annual outdoor Ice Music Festival. The stunning location attracted visitors to its soaring mountainous landscape of the Hallingskarvet Plateau where Norwegian composer Terje Isungset initially conceived the idea of merging the genres of jazz and traditional Scandinavian music in a unique and refreshing way. Each instrument carved from the ice performed in a beautifully haunting harmony, with melodies played by a band of musicians using a specially crafted xylophone, trumpet and frozen chimes.
10. “She’s Back!” Lisbeth Salander returns to continue the Millennium Series in The Girl in the Spider’s Web
The posthumous success of the Millennium trilogy written by Stieg Larsson spearheaded the Nordic Noir genre with an international best-selling crime fiction following. The socially awkward but brilliant heroine Lisbeth Salander dazzled us in her turbulent journey through investigative cyber-crime to family trauma and corruption in Swedish society. Larsson’s deft prose seemed to end prematurely. However the saga, which intended to span across a series of ten volumes, has been continued in the same literary vein as Larsson, with Swedish author and journalist David Lagercrantz at the helm. This ambitious attempt to step into the shoes of the late legendary author had mixed feelings. Although the reviews have proved Lagercrantz has taken a positive direction to continue the triumphant and trailblazing franchise in Larsson’s memory.
We hope you enjoyed this year’s iconic Nordic Noir moments and we look forward to a host of new honours in 2016!