Nordic Noir: The Story of Scandinavian Crime Fiction

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Timeshift, Series 10 Episode 4 of 9

Duration: 1 hour

Draw the curtains and dim the lights for a chilling trip north for a documentary which investigates the success of Scandinavian crime fiction and why it exerts such a powerful hold on our imagination.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a literary blockbuster that has introduced millions of readers to the phenomenon that is Scandinavian crime fiction - yet author Stieg Larsson spent his life in the shadows and didn't live to see any of his books published. It is one of the many mysteries the programme investigates as it travels to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland in search of the genre's most acclaimed writers and memorable characters.

It also looks at Henning Mankell's brooding Wallander series, with actor Krister Henriksson describing the challenge of bringing the character to the screen, and it asks why so many stories have a political subtext. The programme finds out how Stieg Larsson based the bestselling Millennium trilogy on his work as an investigative journalist and reveals the unlikely source of inspiration for his most striking character, Lisbeth Salander.

There are also segments on Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian rock star-turned-writer tipped to inherit Larsson's mantle, and Karin Fossum, an author whose personal experience of murder has had a profound effect on her writing.

Music Played

19 items
  • Italian Noir

    Italian Noir

    Time Shift profiles a new wave of Italian crime fiction that has emerged to challenge the conventions of the detective novel. There are no happy endings in these noir tales only revelations about Italy’s dark heart – a world of corruption, unsolved murders and the mafia.

    BBC Four documentary on Italian Crime Fiction
  • Investigating Scandinavian crime fiction

    Investigating Scandinavian crime fiction

    Nordic Noir producer Robert Murphy examines Sweden's love of detective fiction: "Why had a region best known for Volvos, Abba and Ikea begun producing dark and violent thrillers filled with brooding detectives and avenging cyberpunks?"

    Read Robert's post on the BBC TV blog
  • Krister Henriksson Q&A

    Krister Henriksson Q&A

    How did you come to play Wallander?

    When I was first asked to play Wallander I said no, absolutely not. I didn't want to do it because two other actors have already played him on Swedish TV, but Henning convinced me. He told me I could have free rein with the character – I could make Wallander the way I wanted him to be, as long as I didn't kill him or turn him into a fascist. We shook hands on that. And as yet, he hasn't died or turned into a fascist.

    Where did you grow up?

    I lived in a similar kind of town to Ystad but on the east coast of Sweden. There's closeness to the water, to the sea, and on the other side you just see the horizon, you don't see any land. It creates a longing to go away to something on the other side but you don't know what it is. It creates a deep yearning in people that live in those kind of places. It can be idyllic in the summer but it can be terrible in the winter, it’s so raw it's like a wet sock crawling around your body. The only thing you can do is try and find a pub to get some comfort.

    What kind of character is Wallander?

    Wallander is typical of a certain generation of Swedes, one that both Henning and I are part of. We grew up with opportunities, we were educated, we left home to pursue careers but this created a sense of rootlessness. Work was very important, people were very driven in their careers, but divorce was one of the consequences. It happened to me and it happened to Wallander and suddenly a father can lose his relationship with his children. Career becomes an outlet, alcohol fills the void and that is Wallander.

    Will you be playing the character again?

    When you leave a character like Wallander you feel like you've lost a part of yourself. You think, 'is this really it?' Henning has written the last book, 'The Troubled Man', and I can imagine myself in that film because it is the definite end. A while ago Henning and I were asked if we wanted to do 13 more episodes for TV and we decided to say thank you but we won't do anymore. It felt good to make that decision but six months later I spoke to Henning and said maybe we should do something – not a continuation but an ending. At the moment I've got other projects on so it's gone no further than that.

    Has Wallander changed your life?

    The fact is that when I started Wallander I was 56 years old and I'd already had a career in Sweden as a stage actor and in films. I was famous for something else before Wallander so it was just the cream on the mash, as we say in Swedish. I do it because I think it's fun, I enjoy meeting people and I like to make films but I can't say that it's changed my life in any way.


Mariella Frostrup
Robert Murphy
Robert Murphy
Series Producer
Ben Southwell
Executive Producer
Michael Poole


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