Saturday, 28 March 2020

TV review: The Valhalla Murders, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (2019)

For fans of police procedurals – and there are lots of them going by the number of crime thrillers available on Netflix, where I saw this show – this TV drama offers everything you could want. You also get the most wonderful shots of the Icelandic countryside in winter: dark slopes of inactive volcanoes streaked with white, winding seaside roads, and piles of snow beside the suburban streets of Rekyavik, that nation’s capital.

I was particularly impressed by the TV show’s soundtrack to create suspense. This is a crime thriller (based on real events) but there are moments, created by the skilful use of sounds, that produce in the viewer’s imagination the sort of tension you feel when watching horror movies (which normally I won’t spend time with).

If you wanted to seek out an adjective to use to label this show you’d probably go with “gritty”, but this is a decidedly superior product. In addition to investigating the murders of several men and one woman, Kata (Nina Dögg Filippusdottir) must also find out about the rape of a 17-year-old girl at a party her son went to. Kata is joined in the first task by Arnar (Björn Thors), a local who is flown in from the Norwegian capital of Oslo, where he lives, to help solve the case. The show also takes notice of office politics, so the writers were mindful of the need to keep the viewer entertained; a lot happens and there is not a moment of unnecessary footage.

The opening shot shows Kata in a confined space with a wound to her head. She is lying down and reaching for something with her hand. Once this shot has played out, you are taken back in time to a moment 12 days earlier when, after a drunk man leaves a bar with a woman, the first murder the police are brought in to investigate happens.

A theme the movie deals with is sexual violence, but other subjects get a look-in, including the relationships between parents and children as well as the role of the media, so (to make my main point again) the filmmakers have packed together plenty to think about. 

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