Friday, June 27, 2014

New from MHz Networks: the original Danish/ Swedish television collaboration, THE BRIDGE

Don't worry if a television program titled THE BRIDGE (Bron/Broen) sounds somehow familiar, but if its countries of origin -- Sweden and Denmark -- don't immediately come to mind, you're probably thinking of the remade American version that aired last year starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bechir, another season of which is about to begin. TrustMovies didn't watch the American go-round (wanting to wait for the chance to see it commercial-free), though his spouse did and highly recommended it. Then the opportunity came to watch the original Scandinavian series on DVD via the four disc package recently presented by the popular purveyor of quality foreign television, MHz Networks.

Operating on the assumption that an original might be better than a remake (we won't even go into comparisons of American television vis a vis European, as in Borgen vs The West Wing), I took a chance on The Bridge, and I am awfully glad that I did. This is a superior police procedural/mystery/family drama that grabs you from its first hour-long episode and holds you through to the finale (there are ten episodes in all). And it is an actual finale, by the way: none of this pretend-to-end business, as in the American remake of The Killing.

My partner, in fact, sat down to watch some of the first episode with me, and then checked in periodically for a few minutes during several others. "The American version seems to have followed this one almost completely," he noted, but admitted after a time that the original was better done than its follow-up. That may be due to location. The story begins with the body of a murdered woman, above, found exactly in the middle of a bridge separating Sweden and Denmark. One half of her body lies in Sweden, the other in Denmark. In the American version, the locale is the U.S. and Mexico -- two countries hugely different from each other, while Scandinavia is fairly similar culturally from country to country.

Although directed and written by a number of different people, the series stays steadfast and true to itself for the entire season. So carefully conceived and acted are all the characters that it is difficult to determine much variation in style throughout. Finding the murderer of the woman on the bridge -- and other murders to come -- is paramount here, but within that search a number of sub-plots surface, some directly connected to our main one, others seemingly not so much. All are fascinating and executed very well.

The two lead characters -- one cop from Sweden (Sofia Helen, above, left), the other from Denmark (Kim Bodnia, above, right) -- are beautifully played and keep the series rolling forward. She has something akin to Asperger syndrome, though the medical name is never stated. How he comes to understand and appreciate her (she's terrifically good at her job) is part of the joy of the series. The two leads are not nearly so conventionally attractive as are Kruger and Bichir in the American version, and this helps keep things more believable. Their acting is very strong, however (particularly Ms Helen), as is that of every last character on view.

By the time this first series wraps up, we've been thrust into lives that have been turned upside down, sometimes for good. This is a very dark show, but with numerous flecks of humor scattered throughout. (How our leading lady goes about trolling for sex is one of the highlights -- as believable as it is initially surprising.)

As in life, we cannot count on much of anything, and while coincidence does play a part here, it is never foremost in the scheme of things (a la Downton Abbey). Instead, character and past performance create the present experience, and it is not, for the most part, a pretty one.

The Bridge can be purchased now via MHz Networks and elsewhere. Click here to order.

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