Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Icelandic and Snow Noir


I've been watching a lot of foreign crime dramas over the last couple years. Most of them are set in very cold climates, often during the winter when snow abounds. I’ve seen those called Snow Noir on the internet.

I'm not sure what attracts me so much to snowy areas. It’s not like I’ve ever lived in a super cold climate. I grew up in the Seattle area, which I think of as a fairly moderate climate. Sure, there was snow in the winter on occasion, but mostly it was ice on the roads that was an issue. I swear, though, that Seattle has gotten a lot more snow in the last ten years or so than it did when I was growing up.

Proof I've seen snow

Perhaps it's in my DNA. Most of my grandparents immigrated from Norway and Sweden when they were adults and settled in the northwestern part of Minnesota, close to the Canadian border. That's where my parents grew up. I've only been there in the summer when mosquitoes are everywhere, but I’ve heard about those cold, cold winters.

Most of the crime dramas I've watched so far are Icelandic ones in Icelandic with English subtitles. I enjoy listening to the rhythm of that language. I did watch one that was set in northeastern Quebec in a mining town. That one was in French with English subtitles.

I've enjoyed all of them. Maybe enjoyed is not the appropriate word given the horrendous crimes that take place in them. You also never know if your favorite character is going to be killed off. Everyone is fair game in these shows. And the detectives are often damaged in some way because of things that have happened to them before the story starts.

What’s particularly interesting to me is that, while I will watch shows with these dark themes, I generally won’t read a book that is that dark, especially these days. For some reason watching this stuff doesn’t bother me as much as reading it.

I’m curious. Are there types of shows that you would watch, but wouldn’t read the same story in book form?

Here are my favorite Icelandic and Snow Noir shows. Some are available on Amazon Prime, some on Prime with a PBS Masterpiece add-on, some on Netflix.

The Cliff (Icelandic title is Hamarinn) – This is the first one I watched. Really enjoyed it. It’s set in a small town in Iceland with citizens protesting an energy company they believe is destroying the environment. This isn’t set during a snowy time, but the scenery is gorgeous.

The Lava Field (Icelandic title is Hraurniծ) – On Amazon, this is called the second season of The Cliff. When it originally aired, it was called The Lava Field. The action moves to a different part of Iceland with the same detective as in The Cliff.

The Wall – (Original title is La faille) - This is the one set in Quebec in the mining town of Fermont. Lots of snow in this one. Everyone lives in this immense structure called the Wall.

Trapped – (Icelandic title is Ófærð) – There are two seasons. The internet tells me that a third season will be on Netflix soon. This is probably my favorite. The two detectives are great characters. In the first season, there’s lots and lots of snow plus an avalanche and weather that cuts everyone off from the outside world. In the second season, the action starts in Reykjavik where a man sets himself and a government minister on fire. It then moves to the same town as in the first season.

The Valhalla Murders (Icelandic title is Brot) – This is a show about an investigation into Iceland’s first serial killer. It involves a state run institution for troubled boys, long since closed when the action starts.


blogcutter said...

Thank you for those suggestions - I'm a huge fan of nordic noir, which may be partly down to living in Ottawa, sometimes reputed to be the world's coldest national capital. But unlike you, I'm more likely to READ something grisly than WATCH it, possibly because I have the option of skimming over the more gruesome parts. I'm thinking, for example of the Cardinal series, based on the novels of Giles Blunt. A great read, but I find the viewing of the series a bit difficult at times!

Sybil Johnson said...

Interesting how people's minds differ. I have not heard of or seen the Cardinal series. May have to take a peek and see if I can stomach it.