Death of a Loved One
I hadn’t expected to return to the topic of Crimes of Passion, the latest Swedish mystery series to take up residence on BBC4 on Saturday nights, after finding the first of the six feature-length episodes not really to my liking. That was thanks to the rather overcooked Agatha Christie pastiche feel to it, with its heavy-handed 1950s styling and a confusion of red herrings and furtive looks where an actual plot should be. The next three instalments did little to persuade me that I should reconsider my initial feelings and I’d resigned myself to the series ending in much the same fashion.
And then rather out of nowhere came this week’s story entitled “Dangerous Dreams”, which is an altogether very different sort of offering from the jolly lawks amateur detective stories we’ve had until now. Instead, this story seems to take its lead from dark 19th century Gothic stories, with heroine Puck (Tuva Novotny) taking up a position as secretary to famous author Andreas Hallman (Claes Ljungmark) in his isolated country home during the winter, only to find that the atmosphere inside the house is even more chilly than it is outside in the snowy grounds.
When Hallman’s favourite son Jon (Joel Spira) dies, it appears that the young man’s long-existing serious heart condition has simply proved terminal as predicted – that is, if only his last word uttered to Puck hadn’t been “Murder.” With only Hallman’s wife and other children together with Jon’s widow in the house with Puck at the time, the potential suspect pool is a very small one; but soon after a particularly nightmarish scene sees Puck nearly smothered to death as she sleeps. The house quickly assumes a foreboding and threatening aspect to it with Puck unable to call for help or get out of the grounds through the locked gates. Gone are the Christie trappings of the earlier episodes, and instead we have something closer to a haunted house chiller, the tension mounting as Puck inches closer to the truth, which puts her own life increasingly at real risk in a way that never happened to Poirot or Miss Marple. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been a great fan of Nordic Noir ever since Krister Henriksson’s Wallander series sneaked its way onto British television on BBC4 back in 2008. We’ve had some great delights from Sweden, Denmark and Norway since then including The Bridge, Forbrydelsen and Borgen that have constituted some of my favourite television viewing of the last decade.
But not all that is Nordic is Noir, and in the latest example of Swedish output from TV4 and Svensk Filmindustri we find something very different indeed. Crimes of Passion could hardly be further away from the grey, wind- and rain-swept modern urban angst experienced by Saga Noren, Sarah Lund and Birgitte Nyborg, set as it is in an idyllic summer holiday retreat on a remote island in the 1950s. Such a different style of programme from our Swedish friends would take a lot of adjusting to in its own right even it was quite brilliant, but unfortunately what Crimes of Passion ultimately proves is that the Swedish film and television industries are as capable of making an unfortunate creative misstep as the rest of us.
It’s certainly well made, no problem there: every frame of the thing looks gorgeous, director Birger Larsen putting a really stylish polish that oozes class and sophistication. From the quirky period interiors to the breathtaking beauty of the sun-dappled woods there’s barely a single scene that you couldn’t freeze frame and print out to hang on the wall. The same goes for the cast as well who are all very attractive and easy on the eye, resplendent in their 50s fashions. It’s a sort of fantasy view of Sweden from the period quite unlike the realistic Nordic Noir that we’ve become used to and indeed addicted to over the last few years. Read the rest of this entry »