Returning for a third year, and steered under different guiding hands after the widely-accepted debacle of 2014’s event in Brick Lane’s Old Truman Brewery, the Art Deco glamour of Stepney’s Troxy took up this residence.
The first thing to notice about its new home, is that the temperature is warm. Although the iciness of the Nordic Noir genre is part of its seductive charm, the freezing temperatures encountered last year made attendees feel as though they were stood on the Oresund Bridge in the middle of the night, wearing only a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops. It wasn’t pleasant. This was. Secondly, everything worked. Thirdly, everyone could see the films. So far, so very good.
As to be expected, ticket holders were greeted by a programme packed with talent running across the gamut of the scene; ranging from the notable success stories that broke the brand out (The Killing’s Sofie Grabol), existing bankable hits (The Bridge’s Sofia Helin) to newer entrants to the hallowed company (Moa Gammel of ITV’s upcoming Jordskott) and many more besides.
In addition to the Q&As, there were signings, screenings of 1864’s penultimate episode, exclusive premieres of The Legacy season 2 and new dramas, such as the aforementioned Jordskott, Witnesses and The Saboteurs.
The fact that the attendance numbers were significantly less than previous editions can be made the subject of endless conjecture. Is this a consequence of a scene past its prime? Or a once-bitten/twice-shy public taking cautious heed of the calamities of the last festival? Or is it simply due to the fact that it has shifted from the atmospheric chilliness of February to the bright, beaming sunshine of early June?
In order to comprehend any decline, perhaps consideration should be given to Nordic Noir’s essence. What has made this scene a success? And how does it hold onto its mantle as the esteemed, thoughtful cousin to American television’s decade-and-a-half long renaissance? To mull over these questions, is to analyse what it is that foreign audiences appreciate in Scandi-centric drama.
Whilst the lo-fi, grainy and earthy thrills of Nordic Noir has born a cross-cultural phenomenon, newer work, such as 1864 represents a noticeable shift. It is home to the most auspicious, silky and grandiose of production values yet seen from this corner of the European continent. Oozing the spoils of the gargantuan budget (the largest in Danish television history), this sprawling historical epic has an ensemble to justify the expenses sheet. It may have been criticised for its lacklustre dialogue, but there is no denying an ambitious streak that embraces the old Reithian values ‘to educate, to inform and to entertain’.
A grand reach was also palpable in the advance screening of The Saboteurs. This 1940s set war drama bounds across nations with a peripatetic narrative that even Jason Bourne might balk at. Its luxurious feel is impressive, however, and the first episode screened here highlighted the classy qualities of discernment and care. Anna Friel emerges late-on and, all in all, the signposts point toward an engrossing piece of television drama.
Jordskott, a huge hit in its native country (a hit in Sweden is classed as 800,000 viewers. This was regularly securing 1.6 million), showed more than enough traditional qualities alongside some interesting leftfield turns. The first episode portrayed ample evidence of a Lynchian influence pulling the production’s strings. Eerie, realistic and yet also fantastical, it will be a series to mark in the diary. In fact, it has already been commissioned for a second season.
Away from the screen, the talks were illuminating, with everything from The Legacy’s Trine Dyrholm talking about working with Vinterberg on the Dogme 95 expounding, and highly revered, Festen, to Grabol discussing the political backdrop of that jumper and much, much more.
Those who chose to stay away due to the farce of last year cannot be blamed for doing so. But they have missed out. Not only was this an incalculable improvement over the previous edition, but it showcased an industry that maintains a very high bar of quality.
Nordicana’s reputation has been restored. Nordic Noir’s reputation has been enhanced. It shows a promising future, Borgen or no Borgen. This was an event that celebrated and inspired in equal measure and it would be good to have it back next year.