Shades of Hans Christian Andersen?

This is my review of The Bridge – Series 1 [DVD] [2011].

This dark and complex thriller begins on the Øresund Bridge linking Denmark and Sweden, where under cover of the dark and a power cut, a woman's body is found laid out across the line marking the national border, thus involving the police forces of both countries (and justifying a joint film production).

The killer, who turns out to have a fiendish imagination for unpleasant methods of torture and death combined with a twisted social conscience, proceeds to manipulate the public into anti-capitalist direct action or to blackmail the rich, by capturing victims to use as hostages, and ensuring the maximum publicity for this.

At first, "The Bridge" seems like an attempt to mirror yet outdo "The Killing", with the Swedish detective Saga Norén if anything more driven than Sarah Lund, with the added complication of "Asperger's Syndrome" which makes her the butt of some mockery from her work colleagues, although she is tolerated because of her genius in solving crimes. I felt uneasy at times about a script which encourages the audience to laugh at her, and also wondered about the accuracy of her robotic demeanour and over-literal approach. In striking contrast, her Danish counterpart is the laid back Martin Rohde, a man of strong empathy despite his history of womanising. He is intrigued by Saga, and gradually a bond of sympathy develops between them in which her emotions unfreeze – perhaps unlikely if she is autistic, I don't know. There is the implication she may in fact have been traumatised by a past tragedy.

Over its ten episodes, the story evolves from a simple "catch the villain" to a more complex drama of personal revenge. I was reminded that Denmark was the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, and it seems that some of the bleak morality of his tales may have rubbed off on the film makers: acts of personal betrayal have a cost for which one must pay.

There is a continual, at times somewhat bewildering, introduction of new threads, most of which are seen to have clear relevance, although there are one or two loose strands, perhaps intended as red herrings.

The filming is visually striking, often portraying the bleak underworld of homelessness, drug addiction and abandoned buildings which one does not usually associate with Scandinavia. I did wonder how Martin Rohde could afford to live in what looked like a better house than the Prime Minister in "Borgen", and about the total lack of privacy (surely dangerous for a detective?) in a wooden house which seemed to consist mainly of huge glass windows. The long-haired casual scruffiness of the detectives, even at senior level, is a nice egalitarian Scandinavian touch.

Although I was at times a little unengaged by the earlier episodes, I revised my views as the story built to the moral dilemmas of its dramatic conclusion, in which one suspects the writers may be ruthless enough to sacrifice any character.

And, of course, over it all, there looms the presence of that triumph of engineering and bleak aesthetics, the Öresund Bridge.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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