Yesterday I went to the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch for a symposium on Nordic drama. It was extremely well-attended, which reflects the popularity of The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge. Unfortunately the organisation bordered on the shambolic, which prompted me to say to one rude event hostess “You could not organise a piss-up in a brewery.” It was a space, not a dedicated event centre, and its address in 91 Brick Lane was nowhere near its entrance. At various times the lights went out, the screen went blank, the space was cold, the loos were out of order and the sessions did not maintain time discipline. Nor were the interviewers particularly competent .
I started with an interview with Sisse Babette Knudsen, the star of Borgen. She was evidently rather pleased with herself and thought herself funnier than she was. Not helped by Ben Preston, the editor of The Radio Times, she tended to ramble, miss the question and try to sort everything with her winning smile as she does in Borgen. She did however pick up a familiar theme. Whilst we all admire the contribution of Borgen etc. and we all wonder why our television stations cannot produce similar, she had a huge admiration for British acting and theatrical traditions.
The next session was David Hewson, who wrote a book based on the series of The Killing. It’s an interesting art to write a book from an existing series. As he said, endings can work in one but not the other, as the reader is less passive and less constrained by time. From various clips from The Killing he showed the subtle quality of the acting. As he said drama has now changed, as has the perception that viewers do not like subtitles.
The final session I attended was The Bridge, when they screened the final episode. Afterwards Sofia Helin gave an interview. She turned out to be an personality of grace, beauty and charm totally different from the abrasive Saga Loren. She could offer no explanation for the success of The Bridge. There is scene in it when her boyfriend refused her request for sex as his mother is staying. So she pleasures herself. “Was this difficult for you to film? ” asked one member of the audience earnestly. “No,” she replied, “I enjoyed it. There was some discussion whether I should use a dildo.” A frisson went round the audience and she commented “The Swedish audience is less concerned by this.” She has the looks of Grace Kelly, but before you guys and girls get too excited she is happily married to a church minister.
As I walked down a still vibrant Brick Lane I thought Nordic Noir might well have saved television from reality shows, bake-offs and celebrity chefs by showing if you have high production values – each episode of The Killing takes a month to make and only one week is the filming – there is more than a ready market but a definite need.