Thursday, July 3, 2014

Detective Noir, UK – Hinterland, Case Histories on DVD This Month

 Monsters and Critics - DVD Reviews - Detective Noir, UK – Hinterland, Case Histories
Hinterland Series 1 available on Acorn July 1
Case Histories Series 2 available on Acorn July 17
Jason Isaacs in Case Histories, Series 2         Jason Isaacs in Case Histories, Series 2, BBC
There’s a great gag in the Case Histories Episode Jackson and the Women in which soldier turned PI Jackson Brodie visits an old girlfriend on the set of her new film.  She explains to him that she is playing the straight detective working with a “brooding maverick bloke with a dysfunctional private life”, which perfectly sums up contemporary detectives toiling in excellent UK procedural dramas right now.
From Broadchurch to Wallander to Southcliffe and the new Hinterland, it’s true. The new breed of investigator is confused, sombre, suffering and sometimes ill.  Brains, instinct and drive are their special superpowers, the things that make them special and heroic -0 despite their shortcomings – and absolutely crucial. Only they crack difficult cases, only they are mad enough to know how a mad person thinks and only they put themselves directly in harm’s way.  Are they suicidal or merely on fire with righteous zeal?  They are empathetic sometimes to a fault. But they go home to empty beds.nn1   Richard Harrington in Hinterland, BBC Wales
Two brilliant new UK series Hinterland and Case Histories, on Acorn DVD, inhabit this intriguing subgenre. The popularity of the trope is reaching critical mass but the current pileup is great for the viewer. Overall theses shows are good TV, well produced, well-acted and directed, written with ingenuity and aided by the presence of impressive natural settings and conceived in passion. They are more like good films than films are at the moment.
They take place in gorgeous urban and rural locations often with land and seascapes to die for and new interpretations of urban scenes. The overwhelming presence of untouched nature and overwhelming glass and concrete offers a unique backdrop for despair.
Both shows solve difficult cases over a season of 2 hour episodes and move slowly and deliberately.  There is breathing space and personal touches that result in great intimacy with the characters.  We watch our heroes in tight brooding close-ups in their brooding maverick dysfunction and bond with them.
Case Histories Series 2 stars Jason Isaacs (The Patriot, Harry Potter films) as Jackson Brodie the creation of crime writer Kate Atkinson.  He’s estranged from women yet idealistic about them and has a daughter he can’t see. Brodie is protective of women and goes to great and dangerous lengths to protect them, family, clients and friends alike, as though he’s trying to make up for splitting up his family.  But in the end he’s a workaholic and a solitary man as noir detectives tend to be.
Edinburgh is his stomping ground, dominated by the castle in the background. He visits high and low places for clients across society’s spectrum.  His respectful distance from others seems not to be a choice but it helps him work out morbid riddles. The ever present cigarette recalls Raymond Chandler’s dicks of the forties and suggests an A-type personality and a mind that’s never still.
Hinterland’s remote flatfoot is DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington).  His territory is Aberystwyth on the Welsh coasts and its flatlands, forests and jutting land formations.  It’s a stunningly beautiful place in which people know one another extremely well, where bad acts have great impact.  Mathias chases away his doubts running through these landscapes.
Case Histories and Hinterland belong to a group of films dubbed “Nordic noir”, following a string of similarly bleak, remote and emotionally charged films and TV shows over the last several years, including the original Wallander and Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.  In the US The Killing, The Bridge and True Detective and in Canada Durham County share the trope, the atmosphere of anxious eccentricity in a world dominated by forces outside our control.  These are terrific small films.

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