A body is found on a bridge. Except later we discover it is two bodies waste up and hip down of two different women. One half-body found in Denmark, one half-body found in Sweden. For the bridge the bodies are found together on is the Oresund Bridge, the bridge which joins Sweden and Denmark. Where the killer has arranged the bodies so that the line of their decapitation is also the border-line of Sweden and Denmark. Two different women then from two different countries and indeed from two different worlds, the upper-half a high-profile Swedish politician, the lower-half a low-profile Danish prostitute. A crude point perhaps being made by the perpetrator about politicians and prostitutes being indistinguishable.
So begins the grim premise of this new crime drama The Bridge currently airing BBC 4 of a Saturday night. It was broadcast originally in both Denmark and Sweden on a Wednesday night. The opening music Hollow Talk is by Danish band Choir of Young Believers. They really should have had a Swedish band for the closing music if not a collaboration between bands from both countries?! The dialogue for the show is in both Swedish and Danish.
Crime is a staple of the TV schedule in the UK – we have many home-grown TV cops – some of which I have reviewed on this blog – Identity, Scott and Bailey – see what I am doing here?! – and we have as many US imported crime dramas, again some of whom I have reviewed on this blog, Castle, well okay one of whom I have reviewed on this blog – but anyway they are very many and that is just the good ones and we will all have our favourites – a few favourites off the top of my head – Cold Case, The Closer and Law and Order, in particular the spin-off series with Vincent D’Onofrio, oh and Dexter, and well see it is endless. Euro-cops on the other hand are a more recent import – and I am not going to get into a Geopolitical discussion here around the fact that the UK itself is part of Europe and so Rebus and Morse are actually Euro-cops too!
In the last few years we have had Swede Wallander which also had its own UK adaptation with Kenneth Branagh in the eponymous role. From France we had Spiral and from Italy Inspector Montalbano. And most critically acclaimed from Denmark, The Killing. And BBC 4 to their great credit has been responsible for airing all of them.
Have I missed out any other Euro examples reader? Any Spanish Sleuth or Icelandic Homicide Detective I should get myself acquainted with?
The Swedish lead cop in The Bridge is called Saga Noren. Saga is almost literally literary – Scandinavian story. Would I name a child of mine Story I ask myself. A child is a story made flesh and blood – we are all stories, each others tales – in the beginning was the word or at least before there was the word there was no way of events being described let alone made sense of – without the word there can be no thought, idea, sense – instead a brew of feelings, wonder and terror admixed – the world about us an inexplicable indistinguishable joined up mass – not that language will necessarily make it more explicable – but it will try.
Our life itself is terminal but its story is always left unfinished…how much are we the authors of our own stories and how much the characters purposeful and purposeless in other author’s stories…well The Bridge writer Hans Rosenfeldt if you will name one of your main characters Saga I will go there!
The Danish lead cop is called Martin Rohde. And Martin is not such an innocent name as you might think alongside Saga – Mars, Martial, War – but I am not going to get on board that train of thought – the story you want to hear about if you are reading this is that of The Bridge – what is it about and what do I think and feel about it and likely not even that latter part you dry information seeking travellers of the web! – unless you are one of my subscribers who perhaps long forgot what it was they signed up to in the first place. I wish I could tell you but I am only the writer of all this.
Well, some dry synopsis then. Martin Rohde is married to his job but then that is another definition of a vocation – he is having a part-time affair with his wife and sometimes baby-sits his children. The criminals he seeks and sometimes catches are better known to him than his own sons and daughters whose many mile-stones more often than not will pass him by.
In one scene we see her in her bra as she changes her top – she is not changing her top in her bedroom, or in anyone-else’s bedroom, she is at work. And she is not changing her top in a rest-room or any other clandestine space but at her office desk which is open-plan with only computer terminals dividing one worker from another – it is not just that this is unremarkable to Saga but it is to her colleagues too – they are used to it and her, only visiting Dane Martin feigns to hide his incredulity. Saga is an astute detective in spite of her lack of personal skills and empathy – or perhaps because of it – think an unselfconscious Monk.
Their teams have established that their victim is not one but two and will begin to wonder if the perpetrator is also not one but two, or more.
The perpetrator later identify himself/herself/themselves – trying to describe a plot whilst not spoiling it at the same time is a delicate tightrope walk we critics (even of the ‘so-called’ and ‘self-styled’ varieties) have to balance – as Truth Terrorists or TT. They come with their own website too! And with two web-addresses – one SE and one DK.
I had to see if the show’s creators had gone to the trouble of creating the websites too but the risk with typing Truth and Terrorism into the Google search engine is you are inevitably greeted with websites and articles titled surprisingly ‘The Truth about Terrorism’ and then wary in a quite reasonable and not remotely paranoid way about attracting the attention of the FBI and the intelligence services of other countries as to why it is you are searching for such information in the first place! – so Intelligence Services of whichever country if you are reading this post as well as snooping my web-browsing then you now know my Google search was a very innocent one! My search was a fruitless one too, or rather I could not find any such site listed on page one of the Google search results – is that a new definition of invisibility – if you are listed on page two and beyond of Google search results you might as well not exist at all?! Or just that I am lazy-assed and would not know research if it slapped me hard across the face with a wet kipper…!
As it transpires the self-titled Truth Terrorists are committing their crimes – as there are many others to come beyond these decapitations – to make political points – specifically that both the Swedish and Danish crime prosecution and detective agencies will pursue some crimes more than other crimes dependent on the demography of the victim – in one episode the homeless are subject to poisoning alongside property owners and developers being kidnapped for high-ransom – making the deadly point that if a crime is committed against the underclass it is more time and effort than it is worth to investigate – the death of such people is prioritized far less than any petty crime you care to think of committed against the wealthy and powerful. Likewise such priorities are expressed by the media – it is the kidnapping of the wealthy property owner that makes the news not the serial killing of the almost invisible homeless.
An additional point is made by one of Martin’s sons – that each year far more homeless die of cold and hunger than the body count in this sick Truth Terrorist killing spree – and that this is not investigated because its perpetrators are politicians or more amorphously societal indifference. If someone is murdered in the woods and no-one witnesses it did the murder take place sort of thing…that is if a deed goes unreported on mainstream media did it not take place. Further if the victim is not sexy or cute then they are not meriting of air-time – or if the perpetrator is not obviously a cartoon villain and so not easily vilified then it is passed over for some other more inconsequential news item. Is the News Industry in the Information Business or the Entertainment Business. This question is damning not just of them but we the viewers who clearly in the main could quite happily live on a diet of gossip and tittle-tattle alone.
For the other main character in The Bridge is a tabloid journalist (funny how when I write out the word tabloid journalist the shortcut hack comes instantly to mind) Daniel Ferbe or rather his newspaper or news media in general is the main character – Daniel Ferbe one pawn of many – the term ‘useful idiot’ is applied against those who support a cause they do not fully understand but whose charisma and popularity none-the-less will still promote that same cause and sadly applies to many journalists too – except here it is The Truth Terrorists who are trying to make a useful idiot of Ferbe and his newspaper for their own criminal ends rather than the traditional arrangement where political parties do such.
Paradoxically the Truth Terrorists are doing some of the investigative journalism that Ferbe and his colleagues should be doing themselves, providing him with incendiary internal policing documents – as typing this and having watched four episodes I only now have made the connection to Wiki-leaks and Julian Assange – it is not that I am slow on the uptake but that I take my time to process and percolate information – urgh! – instead of the crony journalism and lazy cheer-leading of the incumbent ruling political party that his paper usually indulges in.
We have the suspense of the Swedish and Danish detectives seeking to catch the killers, we also have the suspense of what crimes the TT will commit next and for what purpose – what crimes of society will they be looking to illustrate next by committing crimes against those crimes as they try to make an ultimate right out of multiple wrongs multiplied against multiple wrongs.
The other notable presence in The Bridge is the décor – both interior and exterior painted in shadow. Police, villains, media, all moving among the gloom – in some scenes their faces barely visible, characters distinguished instead by their shapes and their sounds. And also their smells (our imaginations filling the gap that TV technology cannot provide, yet).
Martin has a brief encounter with the perpetrator – they are inevitably masked and brutally dispatch a beating to Martin – though only to injure, almost as if he wants his pursuers alive, to continue to investigate and by doing so to continue to publicize – and I write perp but is this one man TT or one of its many hiding faces?…
A later episode has a crime committed simultaneously in Sweden and Denmark – so it must be more than one person mustn’t it? Must it? We will find out. Maybe.