Danish TV drama makes a killing
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
The body of a murdered woman is found on the Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden, right on the border – the top half is from a Swedish top politician, the bottom from a Danish prostitute. Danish and Swedish police are called on to find the murderer.
On the air from last month (September) in both Denmark and Sweden, The Bridge – a ten-part television series, the latest Scandinavian thriller – follows the investigation. What is unusual is that the €80 million project is a 50/50 Danish-Swedish joint venture, both creatively and financially, produced by Bo Ehrhardt (Nimbus Film/Digital Film [DK]) and Anders Landström (FilmLance International AB/SW) with state broadcasters DR and SVT, adding Germany’s ZDF and Norway’s NRK. (ZDF Enterprises will tout The Bridge at MIPCOM).
Swedish writer Hans Rosenfeld developed the concept with compatriot Måns Mårlin and Denmark’s Nikolai Scherfig, Danish director Charlotte Sieling heads the directorial team of Sweden’s Lisa Siwe and Henrik Georgsson. Both crew and cast are half-Danish, half-Swedish: leading detectives assigned to the case, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), of the Copenhagen Police, and Saga Norén (Sofia Helin), of Länskrim Malmö, soon realise that their murder is linked to a whole string of killings with political motives.
While The Bridge is occupying the screens, Denmark’s DR-TV has begun production of another 10 episodes of The Killing 3, starring Sofie Gråbøl as Detective Inspector Sarah Lund – the series which received a British BAFTA-award for Best International Production, and sparked a US remake with Mireille Enos in charge of the investigation (and a different murderer), for AMC Television. Concept writer Søren Sveistrup and director Mikkel Serup have set the crimes of the third season on the backdrop of the global financial crises.
When broadcast by BBC4, The Killing 1 – although subtitled - became an instant hit, with ratings reaching 603,000, and an audience appreciation of 94%, supporting the sales of books by Danish authors, Danish design, fashion, food, even Sarah Lund’s Faroese sweater. ”It’s cool to be Danish,” concluded The Times. The new package, which will unspool domestically from September 2012, is produced by Piv Bernth, and Gråbøl is joined by Morten Suurballe, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Olaf Heine Johannessen, Trine Pallesen and Jonatan Spang.
While The Killing 2 is currently airing on ARTE-France, to reach BBC4 next month (October), Danish viewers are following the second round of the award-winning Borgen/Government (which the Frech-British channels have also acquired, and which NBC Television plans for an American remake). A Danish equivalent of The West Wing, written by Adam Price, Tobias Lindholm and Jeppe Gjervig Gram, follows a 40-year-old woman party leader, Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen), and her fight for political power.
Her idealism and huge efforts have just secured her faction a surprise landslide victory in the elections – the 3x10 episodes (the last 10 scheduled for next year) depicts the personal sacrifices and consequences of a top politician – and minister of state - on and behind the political stage. Produced by Camilla Hammerich, and mostly helmed by well-known feature film directors (Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, Rumle Hammerich, Annette K Olsen, Mikkel Nørgaard), Borgen/Government co-stars Birgitte Hjorth Sørensen and Johan Philip Asbæk.
At the recent Holland Film Meeting during the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht, a panel organised by Amsterdam-based Network for Scriptwriters discussed scriptwriting in Denmark “which obviously has a good model, as seen in The Killing and Borgen/Government,” said moderator and Dutch scriptwriter Don Duyns. “The Danes specialise in local thrillers within a social context. Borgen/Government is set in a political arena, and here are all these people suffering moral dilemmas. Big stories, small dramas - they are very good at this as well,” Duyns concluded.