Euro Noir


Euro Noir
Time to ditch the Nordic knits – the
darkest new drama adaptations are
coming out of southern Europe
that you were reading crime in translation.”
Writers such as the duo Boileau-Narcejac [who
wrote the novels on which movie classics Les Diaboliques and Vertigo were based], were not really
thought of as foreign writers then, says Forshaw.
“It really began with Henning Mankell,” he says, “where there was a consciousness that he was an accomplished
crime writer but that he was a Swede and
you were getting far more about the society, in a way that was different from the
France of Simenon.”
Mankell and his Inspector Wallander novels
emerged as an English-language phenomenon
in the 1990s, but it was the Lisbeth Salander trilogy by Stieg Larsson in the mid-2000s that first
conquered US audiences, quickly followed by
the Danish television series The Killing and The
Bridge, both of which were popular in the UK and
subsequently remade as US-based dramas. With
their compelling storylines and atmospherics,
“It’s a kind of Italian Midsomer
Murders. Montalbano always
gets a table by the sea.”
pulp magazines. But since 2000, European noir
has become a force to be reckoned with, in both
publishing and televisual terms, and judging by
its popularity it will be here to stay.
The invasion of Euro Noir “goes back as far
as Simenon,” says crime-fiction expert Barry
­Forshaw, “but the irony is that when one read
Simenon as a boy, you knew he had the misfortune not to be English, but then you didn’t think
The huge success
of the Scandinavian
dramas The Bridge,
Borgen and The Killing, pictured right, in
the UK and in America,
made the idea of a
subtitled series more
palatable to mainstream viewers
fiction in the 20th century, starting in the 1930s
with the Warner Brothers gangster movies,
ripped from newspaper headlines, and the hardboiled novelists who cut their teeth writing for
The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen changed the
average English speaking television viewer’s attitudes to sub­titled foreign drama.
The rest of Europe is a richer source than
­Britain for politically-inflected crime drama for
the simple reason that most other European polities have had more troubled recent histories.
The Scandinavian countries, for example, were
either invaded during the Second World War or
remained neutral and were infiltrated by spies
from both sides, later serving in the front line
of the Cold War while pioneering welfare-state
capitalism. The former Soviet satellites were all
police states, Spain had the legacy of Franco,
Italy faced terrorism and a tradition of corruption
and intrigue, while France offered something of
boss speaking English with a Northern English
accent, and minor characters speaking actual
Italian. Surely there are few viewers who prefer
Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander, despite its UK ratings success, to Valander starring Rolf Lassgard
and subsequently Krister Henriksson?
The TV adaptation of Andrea Camilleri’s
Inspector Montalbano books, on the other hand,
has found favour with British audiences because
of its slight air of unreality. Although it features
Mafia killers, prostitution and immigrants from
North Africa and Eastern Europe, it’s nonetheless set in the sleepy seaside town of Vigata.
“It’s a kind of Italian Midsomer Murders,” notes
Forshaw. “Montalbano always gets a restaurant
table by the sea, the one you can never get in real
life.” The only glimmer of Italian politics in the
Montalbano novels is a single-line
reference to Italy having “the wrong
helmsman” in Berlusconi.
When Scandinavian television
made its breakthrough in the UK
(with prime minister David Cameron and the Duchess of Cornwall
confessing to being addicts of The
Killing), Sky One bought Those Who
Kill and Unit One, but these proved to be fairly
run-of-the-mill cop shows nowhere near the
standard of The Killing or Borgen (the non-violent
thriller about Danish coalition politics that spoke
to Britain’s ­newly-discovered interest in coalitions).
In Greece there are the novels of Petros Mark-
Forshaw, who has just published Euro Noir, a
paperback guide to European crime fiction, film
and TV, believes there “are still some terrific
writers at the top of their game, and we are starting to see more fiction from other countries than
those in Scandinavia, principally France”. The
last question at every speaking engagement he
attends is: “What’s next?”
Traditionally, it has been Germany that is the
first take-up point for Scandinavian crime fiction
in translation. Camilla Läckberg, sometimes
called the Swedish Agatha Christie, is marketed
there with huge displays in German bookshops,
and an author’s profile comparable to that of
J K Rowling in Britain. She has not had quite the
same impact on English book buyers, however.
The excellent stable of German crime writers have yet to take hold in the UK, let alone be
adapted for TV.
Forshaw believes that the Javier Falcón series
of novels, set in Spain’s Seville, by British émigré
writer Robert Wilson, a resident of Portugal, are
overdue for TV adaptation, but it’s not certain
that they will be filmed in Spanish and with a
Spanish cast.
Some of us can recall the fiasco of the adaptation of some of Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio
Zen novels, set in Italy but with leading actor
Rufus Sewell speaking in received pronunciation English, his gorgeous girlfriend speaking
English with an Italian accent, his curmudgeonly
The forthcoming
TV adaptation of
Andrea Camilleri’s
Montealbano books,
below left, and
the Sicilian-based
Gomorra, below
right, are both based
in contemporary Italy
The rest of Europe is a richer
source for crime drama than
Britain for the simple reason that
it has a more troubled recent past.
aris featuring Inspector Haritos, and Sergios
Gakas, both of whom have written novels set in
the recent financial crisis with abiding themes of
political corruption on display. And yet, despite
arresting contemporary angles, they are likely to
remain hole-in-the-corner fare because the prospect of TV adaptation remains elusive for these
shows. Greece has no tradition of crime movies
and TV cop shows and, without co-producers, its
television companies lack the resources to make
exportable shows with high production values.
For those who like French television’s Spiral (or
Engrenages for the true aficionados) about tough
Paris cops and the peculiar system of the French
examining magistrate, Antonin Varenne’s gritty
novel Bed of Nails, set in the Suicides department
of the Paris police and also in rural southwest
France, might appeal. But for those who prefer
crime surreal or even fantastic, then the novels of
Fred Vargas, a pseudonym of the French female
writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau, might make
excellent offbeat television in the vein of Buffy the
Vampire Slayer.
From Scandinavia we can look forward to more
arrivals on British screens. There is the third and
final series of The Bridge yet to come as well as
The Legacy (Arvingerne), a 10-episode modern
family-inheritance saga featuring some by now
familiar Danish actors, and Crimes of Passion
(six 90-minute episodes), set in 1950s Sweden
and based on the novels of Maria Lang. On the
big screen we shall soon be treated to The Keeper
of Lost Causes, a film adaptation of Jussi Adler-­
D O W N T I M E Olsen’s first Department Q (cold cases) novel,
which is released later this month.
Jean-Claude Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy would
make a great adaptation if it hadn’t already
been made back in 2001, before the Euro Noir
phenomenon kicked off, when it was filmed as
Fabio Montale, starring French crime-film veteran Alain Delon (DVDs are hard to find and
expensive). Similarly, it’s too late for, say, BBC4
to broadcast Swedish author Håkan Nesser’s Van
Veeteren (ex-detective who owns an antiquarian
bookshop), because it is already out on DVD,
although his later Inspector Barbarotti series
might yet be filmed.
British author Philip Kerr’s long-running ­Berlin
noir series, featuring the cynical and ­morally
compromised detective Bernie ­
Gunther, who
has to survive under the Nazis and their Cold
War successors, finally looks set to be adapted
for television now that the rights, long held
by a do-nothing German producer, have been
acquired by Tom Hanks and HBO.
Italian and German co-producers have this
year produced another action-packed 12-part
series called Gomorra, a spin-off from the successful 2008 movie and 2006 novel of the same
name about organised crime in Naples, which
should reach the UK in the near future.
Apart from Scandinavia, which is still on a roll,
the best TV adaptations in future are likely to
come from France, Italy and Germany, because
these countries have sufficient wealth and filmmaking expertise to fund major productions.
Spanish TV has invested heavily in The Time In
Between, an 11-episode production about Spain
during the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath.
But what about adaptations of novels by Manuel
Vázquez Montalbán and Antonio Hill, Andreu
Martín, and Alicia Giménez Bartlett – all of
whom have chosen Barcelona and Catalonia as
their backdrop – Domingo Villar (Galicia), and
Javier Madrid (1980s Madrid)?
If American noir and cop shows have had more
than 80 years of cultural resonance, might there
be an equivalent period ahead for Euro noir?n

Documentos relacionados

Sweden Abroad

Sweden Abroad is quite different from the positive one likely to be experienced by visitors. The novels of Sjöwall and Wahlöö paved the way for the rich flora of Swedish crime fiction that has been written since...

Más detalles