The Bridge

With the look and feel of Hugo Blick’s The Shadow Line, and arguably the best thing on Television since, ten episodes of The Bridge on five consecutive Saturday evenings on BBC4 have delivered high quality drama with a combination of style and substance.

As a Noir The Bridge is perfect, not just with beautiful cinematography, perfect opening titles, wonderful attention to detail and costume design, a ‘Killing’ like score, inspired direction and shots that suit the crime genre, but with dark humour that at times is laugh out loud funny. With two brilliant lead characters, Sofia Hlin’s Saga Noren and Kim Bodnia’s Martin Rohde, the dialogue is golden.

Saga Noren, though not unlike Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson in Fargo with a sharp line and speech pattern, is totally unique, with a lack of social awareness that is accentuated by a need to follow guidelines, an unfailing honesty and an addiction to work all counter-balanced by a brilliant, forensic, and at times almost intuitive, detective mind.

Her refreshing, novel pulling technique goes against the Swedish stereotype her character is supposed to symbolise, which is otherwise a clever contrast to the laid back and open Danish Martin Rohde. The concept, with two police forces working together on a crime split between two jurisdictions in the middle of a bridge between Malmo and Copenhagen, is sublime, as the newly formed partnership seem to hunt down every lead themselves, backed by a loyal hard-working and respectful team. Both also have supportive bosses, with Saga’s Manager particularly and understandably protective, wincing every time she treads clumsily on eggshells blissfully unaware of the shrapnel she creates.

Throughout, the episodes throw the audience a number of swerves as well as giving clues, while at times nicely eschewing convention. Early on, for example, whereas a Hollywood movie paints an idyllic life before putting the life of a character in danger, The Bridge quickly and succinctly portrays an obnoxious journalist in just one scene that makes him hard to sympathise with. Meanwhile, the criminal protagonist, psychopathically reigning with terror, is posing moral dilemmas with his stated intentions. And it is often down to Saga, emotionally detached but clearly seeing reason, to pose the counter-argument.

As the campaign of crime increases, new characters and their own stories are steadily introduced, vignettes part of a broader landscape. And the decision of broadcasting double-episodes pay-off in the climactic two final episodes; recent Scandinavian crime drama, including The Killing and even the less accomplished Those Who Kill, have shown that no characters are sacred, so scenes in the final two episodes expertly have the ability to make the viewer sit on the edge of their seats and jump out of them, in turn.

Top quality television.

MG

With echoes of Glory from American Cinema to Bruce Springsteen, and full of the flavour of Escape that European Travel brings, The Substantive TV Columnist Mel Gomes’ e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley‘ is available  from Amazon and Smashwords. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.