What’s the hype with the Nordic Noir-genre?

Kristine Bruerberg Karlsen

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Nordic noir has become one of the most popular genres within the TV-world, according to The Telegraph. But how? And where will it go from here?

When Saga Norén first came driving in her green retro car in the first season of The Bridge, wearing her leather trousers and her blonde hair tussled from the wind, very few people understood how large The Bridge would be in the rest of the world.

Scandinavia hasn’t had a reputation for anything other than oil, fish and blonde, Swedish girls for quite some time. According to The Economist, we’re known to be some of the best countries in the world to live in.

Nobody had anticipated the growing success of criminal TV-shows, later known as ‘nordic noir,’ in the late years of 2000. We would be known as the part of the world that watches the strangest and most hateful murders ever known to man.

Groundbreaking genre

A few years back in 2011, the American-Norwegian show Lilyhammer aired in Norway for the first time. According to Rolling Stone-magazine, the show changed the TV-world and made way for several hit shows like Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards. It was the first time Netflix had offered exclusive content.

An obsession with Netlifx. Photocredit: Austen Squarepants (flickr)
An obsession with Netlifx. Photocredit: Austen Squarepants (flickr)

Since then, Nordic countries are not traveling to Hollywood to make the next big thing anymore. They are staying right where they are, and are writing shows for their own, Nordic audience. The rest of the world just happens to watch as well.

A different way of telling the story

‘Nordic noir’ has become a popular common term about the crime TV-shows with a depressive all around feeling, homes furnished with the Scandinavian interior style and strong female characters with knitted, Norwegian knitted jumpers from Gudrun&Gudrun.

In an article written by Sonja Evang on the website Dramatiker.no, writer of the Norwegian TV-show acquitted Anna Bache-Wiig, says she often recieves the question: “What’s with nordic noir?”

“The best answer I can give is this: That tense, Scandinavian taciturn provides its own way of telling a story. We don’t necessarily talk about what bothers us, but rather keep things locked inside of us. The stereotypical South European experiences the same emotions as we do; the difference is that he will yell, scream and cry – and has a completely different way of expressing his feelings.”

Popular amongst the locals

Even though a TV-programme or two hit home, does not mean it will be just as popular in another market. The Norwegian series called Kampen om tungtvannet (The Saboteurs in English) is based on a true story from the Second World War. Several soldiers have to protect the heavy water-factory on Rjukan from the Germans, and the show brought NRK several thousand viewers.

The show was sold to France, Denmark, Poland and Spain amongst others, but the highest viewing figuers remained in Norway. Local stories will always engange the locals the most.

What now?

With the crime novels still selling and the people wanting more of the Nordic Noir, it’s hard to tell where we’ll go from here.

US has already adapted our style, with crime/drama True Detective and Hannibal hitting big viewing rates. Another season of The Bridge is on the way, and who knows? Perhaps the Scandinavians will make the world a darker place.