The Bridge: Writing my favourite scenes

Friday 24 January 2014, 19:04

Hans Rosenfeldt Hans Rosenfeldt Writer

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Saga Norén, Länskrim, Malmö and Martin Rohde, Köpenhamnspoliti.

I have had them in my life since 2006, when we started working on The Bridge.

The assignment from our producers was to:
1. Create a show that was equally set in Denmark and Sweden.
2. It had to be a thriller.
That meant detectives. From two countries.

In real life Swedes and Danes can understand each other, but we don't understand each other as well they do in the show.

The co-creators and I decided early in the process not to make anything of it. So every Dane speaks Danish and every Swede speaks Swedish.

The first thing we did was figure out how to get the detectives together on a case.

Kim Bodnia and Sofia Helin in front of the Øresund Bridge Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) and Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) investigate a murder on Øresund Bridge

So we put a body exactly on the border. On the bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö. Then they had to come out from both countries.
But who were “they”?

We created Martin first because we knew we wanted to work with Kim Bodnia. (We didn't know if he wanted to work with us but we were going to try.)

Kim meant a white, middle-aged, male detective. We've had quite a few of them in Sweden.

Most of them divorced, with bad or no contact with their ex-wives and children, not very talkative, keeping most of their emotions inside, staring into the dark, drinking too much and listening to opera or jazz.

So we wanted something else. Someone else.

We wanted an open and empathic character with a big loving family.

Someone who enjoyed making small-talk, who was curious about his colleagues and close to his emotions. So that was Martin.

But who to bring in from Sweden? I had an idea. What if the Swedish detective was a woman with absolutely no social skills?

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Catching up: Saga and Martin are friends but don't speak until another case brings them together

Everything she can read, she'll learn, but when it comes to interaction with another person, she's totally lost.

That was pretty much all we said about Saga Norén (beautifully played by Sofia Helin).

Now, the media and the audience have decided that she has Asperger’s, but we've actually never diagnosed her in the show.

I understood and loved Saga from day one. That was not the case for everybody. Broadcasters, directors and even Sofia were a little worried.

“Are we really going to like her?”  It turned out we were.

Very early, when we saw the first dailies (raw unedited footage) we understood that we had something special going on in Saga and Martin’s relationship and what worked really well was a scene in Saga’s car where they didn't discuss the case.

In fact, it worked so well that we decided that there should be at least one of those in every episode.

Saga and Martin, on their own, not talking about the case but personal stuff.

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Martin gets quizzed about his sex life by Saga

Now we refer to them as car/elevator scenes and they're my favourites to write, not only because they give me the opportunity to develop the characters more, they also provide some humour to the show.

And that is important. The Bridge is a dark and brutal story with quite a body count and you need to smile a little now and then to balance that.

With Saga and her personality I don't have to write “jokes”, I just let her ask about the things she wants to know and/or have Martin trying to educate her in social behaviour.

Or let her be brutally blunt to other human beings.

Saga and Martin’s characters and relationship are a huge factor in the success of The Bridge. I love them and since we're currently writing season three I will have the privilege to stay with them for at least another year.

Hans Rosenfeldt is the writer and co-creator of The Bridge.

The Bridge continues on Saturday, 25 January at 9pm on BBC Four. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

More on The Bridge
BBC TV blog: Live web chat with Hans Rosenfeldt 
BBC Breakfast: Watch an interview with Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC. 

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Just love this series I never managed to see season 1. The writing and the way the two characters relate to each other has a strange sense of warmth. I have just turned a friend onto The Bridge and there comment was "does she ever comb her hair" she doesn't need to I said until she reads it in a book she might then. Nice to have something to watch that isn't superficial or just about looks.
    Well done the BBC you spent my money wisely for once

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    Comment number 2.

    Congratulations Hans Rosenfeldt for a great script and to the BBC for showing it - I think he has the balance between the two characters just right and am recommending it to all my friends.

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    Comment number 3.

    Saga is such a brilliant character and played to perfection. Martin is great as her partner and a perfect foil. But please do not let Martin changer her too much. I find the storylines are for me just a backdrop to their relationship. Brilliant writing love the twists, especially the end of Series 1, very well played and so unexpected.

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    Comment number 4.

    Both my wife and I were so entertained by the first series that we worried that the second series would not live up to it... fortunately we have not been let down, again focus on well scripted characters and a topical story-line. I just feel though that again it is not going to end well for Martin

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    Comment number 5.

    Hans Rosenfeldt, congratulations. That is some exquisite, powerful, funny, well thought-out and craftily developed writing. But I guess you must know that by now. Or Saga does. Tak and tack.

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    Comment number 6.

    this is absolutely THE best thing on tv, love it.

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    Comment number 7.

    Is the next series planned?

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    Comment number 8.

    axisof evil, it say in the blog that they are currently writing series 3, so hopefully it will be filmed and show by the Beeb

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    Comment number 9.

    Absolutely a superbly captivating series. Very fortunately, series 1 was aired again during the holidays for two weeks, so I could see it totally on a daily basis with iPlayer. The criminals' problems are social ones that exist everywhere, and the characters are as real as could be possible. Some of the events are extraordinary. Saga and Martin along with all those in the police are real people with their own life problems while they try to protect the public. Saga's role is so difficult to get right that its extraordinary to see it acted so well as is that of Martin's character.

    I could not see how a second series could possibly be better than than the first, but it is. I'm especially struck by the Munchhausen By Proxy incident and its aftermath so far. It was perfectly done and blended in as a remarkable thread. This is a problem that does not get any representation although it is widespread, I believe, which I've been dealing with as an adult by psychopathic personalities trying to use it against me. Nobody can recognise it despite being told. I have only seen Munchhausen portrayed on a House episode some time ago but never anywhere else.

    Then there's the Peeping Tom surveillance that is also only too real but not recognised as such either. These shockers which need wider awareness that is being generated by this magnificant crime drama series. There has to be more than a third series. These are invaluable for learning about the human character and thoroughly enjoyable as suspense entertainment.

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    Comment number 10.

    Great TV. I was worried that it would not be as good as the first but it is just as good. I look forward all week to the next episodes on Saturday night. The characters are so well played and Saga is so outspoken it is sometimes funny but a bit sad. I wish she could sort out her private life but then she wouldn't perhaps be so compelling.
    I still have no idea who the perpetrator or perpetrators are - I really don't want it to end!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Saturday night worth staying in for. All round brilliant production.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Wow! This is real entertainment ...just can't wait for the next episodes.
    Thanks to the Beeb for showing this.

    Come on, Hans Rosenthal! - you've got more scripts to write.

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    Comment number 13.

    I agree with all the sentiments and comments above, a brilliant series, well written, well acted, wonderful ensemble cast and maintaining the suspension all the way through. I loved the start of the episode where Saga took out the make-believe terrorists. Wonderful. I watch Justified on SKY - which is also wonderful in a similar way. Again, brilliant writing, not a word wasted in either of these programmes.

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    Comment number 14.

    I only discovered The Bridge from the second series. The way Hans Rosenfeldt writes is brilliant. So many threads to the story keeps me immersed throughout, and Martin and Saga are so interesting. Nothing on tv has had me unplug my landline or switch off my mobile for years. Many more series please.

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    Comment number 15.

    Yes I love it the fact you have to read the subtitles unless Dane/Swede literate engrosses me even more, Saga (Sofia Helin's) character totally unemotional is my dream come true logical and thoughtful without the intervention of personal feeling perfectly efficient in executing duty in an authoritative position, (like judge dread from the future) so ahead of it's time, As for Martin (Kim Bodnia) Ok we know opposites attract, there has to be that human element keeping it real, well done, a real man!

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    Comment number 16.

    I thought the first series couldn't be beaten and although I'm enjoying this series, I have some reservations. I have a daughter who has Asperger's and I can see those traits in Saga but I'm really hoping that the writers do not make her a figure of fun with those conversations with Martin, that would really put back how some autistic people may be viewed in public, figures of fun.

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    Comment number 17.

    Well I watched the beginning of the second series episode 1 and decided that I needed to view the first series. What a wonderful program. Now waiting for the last two episodes series 2 with baited breath, what little breath I have left. Terrific scripting, acting , music scenes story just wonderful and to top it all we are going to get a third season.

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    Comment number 18.

    I missed S1, and have just watched S2, all 8 eps on iPlayer on the bounce. Well x5 last night and x3 this morning.

    I am infatuated with the Saga, in both senses. The character is compelling and the story is unpredictable and absorbing.

    Everything seems so clinical and, well, Scandinavian. There isn't a carpet to be seen. Almost monochrome, clean and with sharp creases everywhere. The directness of Saga is offset by her controlled sensitivity to others, whilst Martin is overtly emotional, even to the point of annoyance, but is becoming more brutal and insensitive to others as each episode emerges.

    There are some familiar nods to other works, the vintage stylish car (Morse), the portrayal of psychiatric flaws in various characters (Cracker), but the attention to detail is convincing, the atmosphere generated is intoxicating. It is well written, well performed, a page turner of a series.

    I need more.

    As quickly as possible.

    I'd advise getting the box set when it is inevitably released because I really enjoyed watching one episode after another and picked up on various themes which I might have missed had i waited a week until the next show.


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    Comment number 19.

    Someone at the BBC - please commission Hans to write something set in Britain.

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    Comment number 20.

    This along with all the other Scan . Dramas like The Killing, Wallander are top notch and I really enjoy them. I cannot think of a Briitish drama to equal them, and look forward to watching them on a Saturday night, instead of all the terrible reality shows that BbC and ITV show. Another good one is Inspector Montalbano set in Sicily from Italian TV.


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