Review of the new new DVD volume of Beck is over on Flickering Myth now…
The contrast between the calm and studious internal world of celebrated Swedish detective Martin Beck and the drama of murderous crime is brought to the screen in fine style in these five feature-length episodes.
Comprising the last episode from season four (Buried Alive – a horror tinged tale that received a Swedish theatrical release in 2009) and four from the most recent series, this collection can either serve as a good introduction to the show or a reminder as to just why it has been so popular.
The reason why it has done so well is possibly down to its classic approach to the cop show format. It avoids gimmickry, instead concentrating on the twists of the stories and the conflicting personalities of the main players. The soberly calculating Beck (Peter Haber) and his rough-house colleague Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt) perfectly sum up the good cop/bad cop routine, and it is their interplay and occasionally problematic relationship that is the centrepiece of the stories.
The haunted sadness behind Beck’s eyes tell of a character who has a tired understanding that the world is a dark and unforgiving place. Peter Haber brings a level of introspective hurt to the quietly sensitive Beck. On the basis of these stories, he is a fundamentally honest man. Larsson, a tough guy with an old-fashioned approach to everything from cultural politics to investigation techniques, takes care of the action sequences that break up the tension.
The episodes that bookend this release are the most effective and disturbing. Buried Alive and The Hospital Murders both take a horror influence that works well against the sombre backdrop of the pale hued Stockholm. Aside from the well constructed story-lines – which aren’t really whodunnits, more about how Beck will get to the truth – the show is really concerned about growing older on your own.
Beck does have friends and a politely flirtatious relationship with the hospital’s lead medic, but the most striking scenes are often the ones involving him and his daughter (Rebecka Hemse). Despite familial affection and love, the pair find it difficult to understand each other or develop much of a common bond. Scenes between Beck and his retired luxury drink loving neighbour (Ingvar Hirdwall) also highlight the sense of dislocation that the lead character seems to have for the outside world.
A classic detective show and a solid example of how the crime genre can explore a range of topics (organised crime, international terrorism, euthanasia), not least what it’s like to age in a world you feel you no longer understand.
Beck The Series – Volume 1 is out now on Arrow Films
Review of 1992 – The Complete Season is over at Flickering Myth…
Focusing its glossy and well-developed contextual gaze on the Italy of the early 90’s, 1992 is an intriguing mix of ideas and content. With a modern dramatic arc based around the intertwined dealings and developments of six characters, the series concentrates on both the personal and the political with a steely eyed vigour.
The show covers the tumultuous events taking place in Italy of 1992, with a combination of real life happenings blending in with the fictional. Nation-wide scandals, arrests and investigations into all sorts of criminal activity – with the mafia led murders of officials and judges that year taking centre stage – is the backdrop for the personal stories of the cast.
Much of the show’s success is in the detail. Sounds and visuals from the 90’s have been carefully inserted, allowing for a genuine look back at the time (in all its gore!). The notoriously lurid TV shows from the Berlusconi era of programming collude with pop and rock of the time to provide plenty of pointers.
The narrative itself occasionally gets slightly preoccupied with the trappings of trying to do too much at any given time, and at points the viewer is left wishing it could take its foot off the pedal a bit . That being said, the series is a valuable and exhilarating view of a crucial period in Italian history.
First aired in the UK on Sky Arts, this release from Arrow Films continues the label’s scope in delivering the best in European crime, mystery and noir shows. It joins other Italian series on the sub-label ‘Criminale Italia’ such as Gomorrah, Romanzo Criminale and Fog and Crimes.
1992 – The Complete Season is out now on DVD from Arrow Films
Review of the third and final series of Italian crime show Fog and Crimes is over at Flickering Myth and below…
Continuing the feature-length television adaptations of Valerio Varesi’s detective novels, this third and final season of Fog and Crimes takes Soneri (Barbareschi) out of his natural climate of Ferrara and moves him to the big city of Turin.
Bringing a dark complexity to the demanding nature of police work, and highlighting the difficulties of any kind of relaxed personal life, this quality drama creates a gripping structure that brings successful closure to the series.
Other than the change in city, the main difference this time round is in the supporting cast. New assistant Todisco brings a comedic side to the plot as Juvara did in the first two. But it is the additions of Anna Valle as medical doctor Chiara and Celeste Cuppone as runaway child Immacolata where the cast mostly differs. Both of these new characters bring an added warmth and humanity to the tough cop.
The tightly formulated plots of the four gripping tales provide depth and many surprising twists. The ongoing story of Soneri’s relationship break-up with the first two series’ Angela (Natasha Stefanenko) is alluded to at the start and end nicely bringing the series round to a conclusion.
The disc itself is pretty much bereft of extra features, although the Arrow Films trailers and booklet give a good idea of where the label is trying to go with its priorities for Euro-Crime drama.
This release joins other Italian series on the Arrow Films sub-label ‘Criminale Italia’ such as Gomorrahand Romanzo Criminale. Well worth checking out for all crime and mystery lovers, Fog and Crimesended on Italian TV screens back in 2009 and is fully deserving of a new audience.
My review of the Swedish TV series 30 Degrees in February is over at Flickering Myth now…
2000’s Danish post-war drama The Spider gets a DVD release today from Arrow. My review is over at Flickering Myth.
My review of the conspiracy thriller Australian TV series The Code is over at Flickering Myth and appears below…
The vast expanse of the Australian outback certainly looks like a beautiful and mystical place. From the spiritual majesty of Peter Weir’s Walkabout (1971) to the raw bestial horror of Wolf Creek (2005) and countless others, the cinema screen has striven to capture the mysterious depths and contours of this physically and psychically challenging landscape.
The Code (shown on BBC4 in the UK) is a TV show hoping to bring some of this largely cinematic vision to the small screen. And it succeeds, layering believable characterisation and motivation along with a build up of tension and dread as it progresses through its ‘who’s more corrupt than who?’ storyline
This form of who and whydunnit creates the perfect atmosphere to explore a range of different subjects. Following Canberra based online journalist Ned Banks (Spielman) and his computer hacker brother Jesse (Zukerman) as they try to find out just why they’ve been sent a video of a road accident deep in the outback, the story keeps the viewer gripped with tried and tested TV methods. It’s slick, it’s exciting and each 55 minute episode ends with an artfully produced cliff-hanger…
As the two brothers delve deeper into the mystery, aided and abetted by outback school teacher Alex (Lucy Lawless – yes, that Lucy Lawless of Xena and Spartacus fame), the contrasts between the wild almost unearthly (to European eyes at least) landscape of the outback and the seats of power in the Canberra government become ever more stark.
Much of this intrigue is captured though the use of smartphones and computers, and the show’s production takes a striking graphical approach to bringing the IT element out. As a geek-pleasing construct, the use of a ‘screen within a screen’ approach, showing off exactly what the tech wizards (mostly the Asperger’s Jesse) are up to online is a critical device. This devotion to top-level tech marks out the show as a world away from the 80’s and 90’s face of Oz Tv which largely came to these shores in the shape of Ramsey Street and Summer Bay.
The attention given to Jesse’s condition and the ability to largely get it right is also a success-story for the show. Rarely have forms of autism been shown in a realistic way in the popular media, and hopefully this sensitive and intelligent portrayal marks an overall maturing of the medium. After all, if the Scandinavians can get it right, why not the Australians?
All in all then, The Code provides plenty of food for thought both in sociological and political terms. An excellent modern thriller series – hopefully more will follow.