The Seattle-set US version of Danish superdrama The Killing begins its run on Sunday. I’m tempted to go overboard and say that the original is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV, ever. But then I’d start to sound like one of those people who go on and on about The Wire. And I wouldn’t want that.
(But it is.)
To steal my own comment from Good Dog’s blog I think that The Killing (Forbrydelsen) is near-perfect TV, balancing an adult sensibility with a pulpish must-see narrative drive, nicely under-written and finely nuanced. The personal/professional gavotte of Lund and Meyer is like a masterclass in character work.
So where does that quality come from? What do the Danes know that we seem to have forgotten? The Guardian newspaper sent reporter Stuart Jeffries over to Copenhagen to interview cast and creators for this illuminating piece.
Most illuminating for me was the fact that both Sophie (Sarah Lund) Grabol and Lars (Troels Hartmann) Mikkelson made time for their interviews between rehearsals for, respectively, a staging of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, and Moliere’s The Misanthrope. Danish television’s talent gets its drive, class and craft from classical theatre, where ours is now rooted in soaps.
A New York Times interview with showrunner Veena Sud indicated that the US version would add to the backstories of some of the main characters. She also referred to the investigation being ‘stretched’ over 13 episodes, which I hope was just an unfortunate choice of words. Forbrydelsen‘s twenty hours were another masterclass, this time in long-distance story management.
(Speaking of unfortunate choices; I just mistyped ‘showruinner’, which is no reflection on Ms Sud but which I intend to copyright for some future use.)
In answer to the question, “Why remake The Killing at all?” I’d say this; if the remake captures any of the quality of the original, then there’s an exceptional treat awaiting viewers for whom a subtitled Danish thriller is an insurmountable climb. Which, on the evidence of numbers, is most of the English-speaking world.
I won’t be watching. Not out of protest or a sense of superiority, but because there’s no point. I don’t want to be the annoying guy who can’t shut up about what they’ve missed or what they’ve changed. But I don’t want to hear about those added backstories, either. So much that was effective for me in the original lay in what went unsaid.
I’ll probably sample it out of professional curiosity. But as a viewer I don’t want my memories overwritten, much as I don’t want to hear lyrics added to Khachaturian’s adagio from Spartacus (someone has).
And besides, I’ll be busy. Spiral series 3 starts tonight.