Societal Capital in The Bridge

The rise of the ‘Nordic Noir’ is one of the most interesting phenomena in contemporary popular culture. A Scandinavian crime story – this label became a unique category with its own characteristics and themes. The international success of these books and movies comes from the perfect combination of style and substance: the authors not only follow and understand the rules of the genre but they are able to develop them. The perfect use of the formula, the mesmerizing combination of the deep character-studies, the snowy set and the shocking twists would not have any serious effect without the tense contrast between the tidy surface and the frightening depth.

These conflicts not only highlight the most significant problems and repressions of the western societies, but the stories are fuelled by the eternal struggle of the superego and the instinctual drives. The Danish-Swedish Bron/Broen (The Bridge) merges the achievements of Nordic Noir with the effects of the new television series. The creators utilise the narrative possibilities of the sequences as well as the special features of the chosen locations. The shocking and thrilling investigation is a well written character-driven drama and a thought-provoking sociographical report with a powerful atmosphere. Not only the fans of the procedural sub genre will find this show engaging.

The title ‘character’ Øresund is a fundamental element in the series. The famous bridge connects Copenhagen and Malmö and it is a strong allegory of the irrefragable links between cultures. The tightened relationship and the mutual dependence is a key element of the story, the dead body on the geometric mean of the bridge is a heavy icon of the dark side of the cohesion. The Danish and Swedish police have to work together to solve the case, but the two detectives are reverse types. While the friendly, emotional Martin follows his instincts and has very good social skills, the brilliant Saga is looking for patterns. Her Asperger’s syndrome and Martins temperament set back the cooperation. Although they don’t have any language problems they have to understand each other. The coherence of these methods is essential in the investigation; the oppositions are the main obstacles of solving the case. The antagonists are intelligent serial killers who knowingly play with the vanishing but still existing boundaries. This paradox effect has some fascinating hide-and-seek turns.

The unusual relation of the two protagonists and the controversies of the welfare societies are pushing the stories forward, the deserted cold-grey locations and grave silence give a particular tone to the series. After the shocking twist of the first season, the second impresses us with its complexity. The writers deepen the formula: the green eco-terrorist group is a dreadful antagonist and the private crises of Martin, the mental upset of Saga truly compromise the success of the investigation. The characters are elaborated; the freezing neon-glowing atmosphere is amazingly sterile, the communication often stalls. The constantly growing case became a massive puzzle where the missing pieces are the previously ignored or not properly shared information. The police have every possible resource; the most advanced technology is available so the true challenge is to find the correct perspective. Martin and Saga seek the proper reading of the clues which is only possible if they really understand each other.

The view of the grandiose Øresund is a recurring image in the series as the magnificent but somewhat rigid concrete-stripe symbolizes the main dilemmas of the story. A bridge, a vanishing border not only connects people, but paradoxically it can also separate them. Physical connection is nothing if they do not reach, interact and trust each other. The antagonists utilize this openness as a weapon, if our heroes are not able to adjust to this new world the evil wins. The dynamic of this learning process comes from the chemistry between the two detectives: the actors Kim Bodnia and Sofia Helin are excellent in these multiple roles. The formula of the series works perfectly so after the first season two remakes were made. The American and Franco-British creators copied the figures and twists and tried to apply some local peculiarities but these unimaginative transcriptions could not succeed. The only way is to improve vary and mix these elements: BBC mini-series The Missing is a fine example of a proper revision. This crime drama adapt the themes of cultural contrast and miscommunication and blend it with the narrative effect of True Detective. The Bron/Broen is not transplantable as the very special Scandinavian setting is vital for its impacts.    

Zoltan Huber

Zoltan is a Hungarian freelancer critic and working for printed and
online magazines since 2011. He wrote several reviews and essays
in the prestigious Filmvilag and contributed to various books. He is
mainly interested in the different aspects of popular cinema and the
contemporary television series.