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European Nordic Noir: Fortitude and The Team

The crime series Fortitude and The Team point to a new faith in European cultural encounters and multilingual productions within television crime fiction, writes Eva Novrup Redvall.

The recent interest in subtitled series among certain UK audiences and the popularity of Nordic Noir content such as Forbrydelsen/The Killing and Bron/The Bridge seems to have led to a new faith in European cultural encounters and multilingual productions within television crime fiction.

In the end of January, Sky Atlantic premiered the British series Fortitude by Simon Donald, set in a fictional small town in the Norwegian arctic region. This weekend, the European ‘road movie police series’ The Team premieres on Danish television with locations and actors from several European countries when telling a story of transnational crime.

Muscling in on Scandinavia

Fortitude

Polar Noir: Fortitude

Fortitude is a UK series that ties into the Nordic Noir cool by using the amazing icy landscapes from the Arctic as an atmospheric setting with ice bears and northern lights and by casting Sofie Gråbøl from The Killing in one of the main parts. The series was shot in the UK and Iceland and draws on the international community of the Arctic settlement as a way to legitimize an international cast, ranging from American actor Stanley Tucci, British actors such as Christopher Eccleston and Michael Gambon as well as Sofie Gråbøl and Spanish actress Verónica Echegui.

Several British reviewers, such as The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston, have commented on how the series tries to ‘muscle in on Scandinavian territory’. The series marks an interesting attempt to set a British series in the Nordic region, but the UK reviews have been mixed.

Polar Noir

Fortitude has already premiered on Norwegian television, and Norwegian reviewers have commented on the fun of listening to British actors speaking with a Norwegian accent or trying to speak Norwegian in the ‘Polar Noir’. However, some, such as the reviewer of Norwegian daily Dagbladet, have also criticised the series for being blinded by all the clichés of the North. In terms of competing with the local product, the reviewer for the newspaper VG found that the series can’t compete with Nordic Noir such as The Killing or The Bridge, but works as its own kind of ‘landscape thriller’.

It will be interesting to see how audiences and reviewers in Sweden and Denmark perceive the series when it airs on SVT this Sunday and on TV 2 in March. According to The Guardian, 722,000 people watched the first episode of the £25m series when it premiered in the UK, and the consolidated viewing figures (including people who watch the series in the subsequent seven days) were more than 2 million.

‘Made in Europe’ fiction

The Team

Pan-European crime drama The Team

While Fortitude is a British series with a foreign setting, the new police series The Team is an example of a co-produced series, where several European countries have collaborated on creating crime fiction with the potential of attracting transnational audiences. The European Broadcasting Union presents the series as “the first genuine ‘European’ series of its kind”, being co-produced by 11 media organisations from eight EU Member States and involving six public service broadcasters.

EBU argues that Scandinavian Noir series have shown “that language is no barrier to the international success of ‘made in Europe’ fiction”, and The Team is an example of allowing linguistic complexity in a crime story where a Joint Investigation Team brings together Harald Bjørn (Lars Mikkelsen) from Denmark, Jackie Mueller (Jasmin Gerat) from Germany and Alicia Verbeek (Veerle Beatens) from Belgium. They all speak their native language when in their own countries, while English is the language used for communicating with each other.

European content – Danish team

Solving the murders of three young women brings the investigation team to Antwerp, Berlin, Copenhagen, The Hague, Lithuania as well as the Austrian Alps, and while the European cast and settings offer a clear sense of a transnational production on screen, an interesting feature of the making of The Team is a focus on trying to ensure one vision for the production and a Nordic Noir feel by having a Danish team behind the scenes.

The series is thus written by Mai Brostrøm and Peter Thorsboe, who have previously created the Emmy-winning crime series Ørnen/The Eagle and Livvagterne/The Protectors for Danish PSB DR. Kathrine Windfeld was the conceptualizing director, Kasper Gaardsø directed other episodes and the series also has a Danish director of photography, editor, production designer and art director. At the Danish TV Festival last year, German producer Peter Nadermann explained how the intention has been to create a series marked by the quality of recent Danish series.

Calibrating multilingual acting

The Team was a case study at the MeCETES conference Making European Film and Television Drama in Ostend in September, where Kathrine Windfeld – who has sadly since passed away – found the time to attend and talk about directing the series and the challenges of working with a transnational cast.

One of the aspects of The Team that Kathrine Windfeld discussed in Ostend was how she found that there are different traditions of acting across Europe. According to her, a crucial element when trying to avoid creating the much feared ‘Euro-puddings’ was to work hard on calibrating the acting when bringing together actors from many different countries.

MeCETES has The Team as one of the transnational case studies and we look forward to following the reception of the series when it premieres across Europe in 2015. The series is an ambitious attempt to co-produce high profile multi-lingual television drama that might not only tie in to the Nordic Noir interest but also point to a new way of creating European cultural encounters on its own.

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