Reconfiguring the Nordic Noir brand

Nordic Noir TV crime drama as remake

Authored by: Yvonne Griggs

The Routledge Companion To Adaptation

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138915404
eBook ISBN: 9781315690254
Adobe ISBN:


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Nordic Noir TV crime drama foregrounds its Scandinavian identity, its particular noir-like mode of audiovisual expression, its complex long-form narrative, and its in-depth character studies, and though its national markers are an intrinsic part of its identity, it offers a branding template that has the capacity for cultural and geographical makeover on a global scale. With its roots in Scandinavian crime fiction dating back to the early twentieth century, the term Nordic Noir has become synonymous in contemporary times with quality television. First coined, according to Gunhild Agger, by the Scandinavian Department at University College London, and given mainstream exposure in a BBC documentary titled Nordic Noir: The Story of Scandinavian Crime Fiction (2016: 138), the label Nordic Noir has since been adopted by reviewers, 1 audiences, and production companies alike to classify film and television dramas that share a certain generic DNA, most readily aligned with crime drama and invariably employing a noir-style aesthetic. Steven Peacock sees the positive reception of screen adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy 2 and of Henning Mankell’s Wallander 3 as instrumental in generating growing international interest in Nordic Noir products; such narratives, he argues, are particularly receptive to “repositioning as global texts” (2013: 98–99), as are recent TV crime dramas from other Scandinavian countries. Nordic Noir’s global reach is evident across a body of television series that share its generic codes and its distinctive visual aesthetic. Through a process of appropriation rather than the more direct route of adaptation, 4 audiovisual markers of Nordic Noir crime dramas have become part of an embedded style signature that lends kudos to various British, French, Irish, American, and Welsh crime dramas, 5 but whether functioning as adaptation or appropriation, Nordic Noir TV crime series translate to other national, geographical, and cultural frameworks with ease. A more definitive adaptive relationship is established in a number of English-language remakes of Scandinavian TV series. Produced for an American audience, The Killing (2011–2014), a remake of Danish TV crime series Forbrydelsen (2007–2012), and The Bridge (2013–2014), a remake of Danish–Swedish coproduction Bron/Broen 6 (2011–), followed the release of the Scandinavian source texts, as did The Tunnel (2013–), an Anglo–French remake of Bron. Through analysis of the adaptive processes that inform the production of these Nordic Noir remakes, this paper explores what Linda Hutcheon terms the ongoing “dialogue” between not only source and remake but also the “dialogue between the society in which the works, both the adapted text and adaptation, are produced” and that in which they are “received” (2013: 149).

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