What exactly is the Noir in Nordic Noir? From a selection of definitions, an undertone of dark emotions, precipitated and nurtured by long sunless winters, arguably empowers Nordic to claim exclusive rights to a specific genre to which other ‘Noirs’ cannot even mildly approach.
So, can the Crimes of Passions series be regarded as truly Nordic Noir? To answer this, it’s useful to revisit the origins of the use of Noir in terms of film and theatre. One source (Film Noir Foundation) refers to ‘the vivid co-mingling of lost innocence, doomed romanticism, hard-edged cynicism, desperate desire, and shadowy sexuality..’. Another refers to ‘an underlying existentialist philosophy..’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The key components of ‘Noir’ also appear to include Lighting, Flashbacks, the moral ambiguity of the Noir hero, and the stereotypical Noir women; abused and manipulated – which about sums it up!
If then, to be regarded as Noir, a play or film has to include most elements of this recipe then C of P doesn’t appear to be Noir enough. Indeed, energetic discussions with fellow aficionadas on this very topic brought forth comparisons to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and even Edmund Crispin.
However, pretty villages and couthie residents apart, delving a little deeper into the background and motivations of the C of P murders, the watcher may recognise that there is something quite disconcerting about each of them; they are, in most cases, totally needless. The problems which precipitate the need for elimination of each victim are such that alternative solutions could arguably have been found. Motivations for the murders included jealousy, frustration, and shame – all very intense emotions, but challenging to comprehend how they could lead to a person perceiving that murdering another human being was the only solution to halting exposure of a possible case of incest, covering up an affair, or addressing the challenges of an ‘arranged’ marriage.
But..… beneath C of P’s deceptive veneer of enlightenment and culture, can we really claim that there is no evidence of lost innocence, doomed romanticism, hard-edged cynicism, desperate desire, and shadowy sexuality in this series? Re-visit these variables, one at a time, and you will find them all, cloaked by respectability, in those very neat Swedish villages, with their family reunions, friendships, oh so tidy homes; but alas, not so tidy minds.
Reading these clumsy words, I’m conscious that they portray a degree of unbecoming naivety. So be it; trying to write this offering has been great fun. And that, in the end, in the greater scheme of things, is all that really matters . Chris