In January, the Danish series Forbrydelsen (Danish for “the crime”) aired on BBC in the UK (with subtitles) for the first time. Forbrydelsen originally aired in 2007 on networks in Denmark. It has since then not garnered too much attention. I say this not because it is unknown to the audience (it was successful enough to get its own American version), but because in my opinion the praise that it has generated is simply not enough.
From the beginning of the first episode, Forbrydelsen has done little wrong. It has what every show in its genre wants: suspense, thrills, haunting background score and great camera work. It is a 20-episode story of the murder of a young girl amidst a political campaign, from the day it happens to the day it is solved.
Each episode depicts a day that is gone into solving the crime by Detective Inspectors Sarah Lund and Jan Meyer. While most writers would feel more comfortable depicting such a story in a thrilling 2 and a half hour time frame, this bold execution has taken away nothing in terms of suspense. At no point does it get slow. At no point are you left wondering why they haven’t wrapped it up sooner. Simply put, you are kept at the edge of your seat for 20 hours witnessing the drama unfold.
But what makes this different from other dramas you ask? Acting. Ceaseless, amazing acting. And here’s the kicker- no gimmicks. There is no twist that will leave you scoffing. No plots that will make you say “they tried too hard with that.” No random shootouts to quicken the pace. There is no sarcastic boss, no renegade cop with a partner who likes to play by the rules. No grieving mother who loses her mind by flinging her arms and rocking on the floor. No grand speeches coming out from the least emotional character.
You will go through the whole show trying to group the characters with those you may have seen in other shows. But they are so refreshingly different that they will not let you. DI Sarah Lund along with all the others is introduced to the viewer in a realistic manner. At first you know nothing about them but as you get deeper into the story you see their characters fleshed out in a natural manner. You know them more and it becomes easier to predict their reactions. What impressed me most was the depiction of the young girl’s household.
It is obvious the family is in pain. But you see them attempt to go past that pain and get through life one chore at a time. You don’t see them implode and let hell break lose as other shows would love to portray. You see them suffering the way real people do. You do not see actors, you see only the people they are depicting. It makes you connect to them more and empathize or sympathize accordingly. You achieve catharsis along with them.
If I had to describe the series in one sentence I would say that it “reads like a good book.” The American version (The Killing) has already released six episodes on AMC. But I would strongly recommend the original. It would be-pardon the upcoming pun-a crime not to.