The Bridges of Malmö County

Before BBC4 broadcast its Scandinavian crime import, The Bridge (Bron/Broen), I read this piece in which Mark Lawson rhetorically asked if the time of the Scandinavian crime series is past and if “we” (presumably the fair race of Anglo-Saxons) are far too indulgent when it comes to foreign drama. It struck me as a remarkably lazy piece of TV journalism (even for TV journalism and even for the Guardian, whose anti-intellectualism I’ve mentioned before): such was the vagueness of reference, I suspected Lawson hadn’t watched the series in question, and, more importantly, his gathering together discrete series (The Killing… er, The Killing 2, Wallander, The Bridge) and pronouncing them a group, then condemning all on the basis of being a group struck me as a kind of straw man argument. These are a few thoughts on The Bridge following the season finale this weekend.

The opening sequence of The Bridge, as one might expect, thematically determines every subsequent episode, marking the beginning of a series of gruesome crimes perpetrated by the same criminal mastermind, which are investigated by Martin Rohde (the Danish cop with the koala bear face) and Saga Norén (the Swedish cop with the sick-colored Porsche). A body is found, sawn in half and stretched across the border between Sweden and Denmark, upon the Øresund Bridge which connects the two countries. The conceptual nexus attendant to the structure of this scene, however, resonates and recurs throughout the series, accreting exponentially with each episode: this initial double bridge, the cadaver bridge upon the Bridge, which, split into two, fails to span the divide, forms the basis for multiple variations upon the same structure of division and (precarious) association, separation and (provisional) correlation. The eponymous bridge refers, in this sense, not only to the location of the series’ primal scene, but also to the logic which resurfaces within every episode, evident within the friction between Swedish and Danish language, Saga’s ineffective negotiation of the law and what Martin calls “the unwritten law” of social convention, the imbrication of law and vigilantism… The cinematography seems similarly governed by it: shots such as the one below are ubiquitous, as are shots of the Øresund Bridge, despite its exemption as the location of any action save the series’ opening and closing scenes… The clearest example, however, is the finely-wrought plan of Saga and Martin’s quarry, the “Truth Terrorist” (TT).

TT is moved to homicidal action, we are told, by the structural inequalities which divide the social sphere. His actions, he says, are calibrated to highlight five issues: the preferential treatment of the upper over the lower class, the inequality before the law of police and immigrants, the contempt of the wealthy for homelessness and destitution, the disregard of the system for those with mental health problems and the first world propagation of third world child labor. Each incident (the body on the bridge, kidnap and murder of a cop in an immigrant slum, murder of the homeless, incitement to violence of schizophrenics, kidnap of schoolchildren) is accompanied by statistics, mailed to a news reporter, that substantiate each of his claims. TT’s is, essentially, a bloody war on social inequality that, by bridging it with dead bodies, highlights the societal rift between rich and poor, cop and immigrant, first and third world child (etc.), and targets the structural bifurcation which constitutes the unjust world in which we live.

The bridge, or bridging itself, is the protagonist of The Bridge – imbuing situations with motility and gravitationally drawing our attention to its recurring mutations and alterations: TT the killer is, for the most part, a kind of MacGuffin, a homicidal maniac-shaped plane upon which a more fundamental force can expand and unfold. The series is, however, not without its flaws and failures. Most disappointingly, from episode 7 onwards it begins to take the same form as every other detective drama, effectively believing its own MacGuffin and localising the source of its intrigue in the body and face of a resentful TT, who bears a personal grudge against a randy Martin.

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~ by schoolboyerrors on May 22, 2012.

One Response to “The Bridges of Malmö County”

  1. Especially liked the Swedish / Danish tensions; the comic aspects of Swedes not understanding Danish as when Martin Rohde visits his colleagues in Malmo for the first time and has to speak slowly. Amongst Swedes the adage being that Danish is Swedish spoken whilst gargling with a mouth full of porridge.

    And Oresund symbolises this cultural divide.Don’t know if The Bridge does this better than The Kingdom … Stig Helmer, on the roof of the Danish National Hospital in Copenhagen looking across the water at Barsebaeck nuclear power station, shaking his fist in the air, shouting obscenities at Denmark

    Anyway, looking forward to series 2.

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