Birger Larson - Director of The Killing and now Murder
This Sunday sees a one-off BBC2 drama, Murder, hit our screens. Sunday evening telly doesn’t always get us that excited, but this has got our eyes twitching for several reasons:
- it’s filmed and set in our very own Nottingham
- it features local actors like Joe Dempsie and Lauren Socha
- it has a rather impressive production team
- it has been crafted by the hands of Birger Larsen, the director of The Killing.
Quite a bit to get excited about then. Or is it just going to be another media swipe at Nottingham that perpetuates the myth that we all wander the streets tooled up?
A fictional piece, it’s set around the killing of a young girl in a Nottingham flat after a night out in the city centre, and features an impressive array of upcoming British talent including Joe Dempsie (Skins), Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones) and Lauren Socha (Misfits).
Add that it was written by the BAFTA winning pair of Robert Jones and Kath Mattock, the writers behind Channel 4’s Buried, and is directed by the critically lauded Danish director Birger Larsen and it seems that the beeb might be showing us some quality Sunday night viewing. Fresh off the back of the BBC launching the first few episodes of the huge hit Forbrydelsen (The Killing) back in 2011, Larsen has cast his eye to our very own city streets for his dark, brooding style of crime drama.
Joe Dempsie - Nottingham-based actor starring in Murder
Erin, played by Lara Rossi who starred in the critically lauded stage play Tender Napalm, is found brutally murdered in her flat with the main suspect being Stefan, a young soldier who had come back to the flat for a game of spin the bottle with Erin and her sister Coleen, played by up-and-coming talent Karla Crome (Hit And Miss). But as more characters enter the fray, the circumstances surrounding Erin’s death become unclear. As viewers of Larsen’s previous shows will know, although you may think you know who the killer is, you may just want to stick with the twists and turns to find out just how wrong you were.
As a newcomer to Nottingham, and England, Larsen’s brought fresh eyes to what should be to most local viewers very familiar surroundings, even if they are shot through a burning red filter. When he spoke to The Guardian back in July he said, "We used the colour of blood. I don't know Nottingham, so it was a huge surprise to me when I went there for the exterior filming we did.” Though some locals may not agree with his interpretation, it allowed him to work in a way reminiscent of those programs he made in his native country.
Karla Crome in Birger Larson's Murder
“I sensed this hostile vibe. It might just have been me, but there was this mean vibe in the streets. I don't know why. They have got two universities there, so I was quite surprised because sometimes having a lot of youth around softens things in a city." An interesting statement and for anyone worried that something of Nottingham may be lost in the production, writer Robert Jones explained his reasoning behind choosing our town, "It felt like it needed to be in a real place," he says. "We wanted to hear the accent and feel the place."
Larsen who was also involved in Wallander and The Bridge cites Prime Suspect as a major influence in the creation of Forbrydelsen and although he hasn’t necessarily been that kind in the press about Nottingham, he has expressed delight at being able to bring his directing talents to our shores. Fans of his previous work can be excited that a change in location does not however mean a change in style; Larsen claims to have incorporated his slow, tense filmmaking into the largely British production. "If you leave the camera there longer, then the audience starts to think and to worry. The process of editing is very important. It helps the story, which is the most important thing, along with the actors' performances…"
Murder can be considered a hugely British production, and one that enticed Larsen from the very beginning, "I can say without exaggeration that it was the best script I have seen since The Killing…I was attracted to the fact that it's written in such a way that the actors talk directly to camera. It feels original and intimate. You see it through their eyes."
Stephen Dillane star of Murder (photo from the film 44inch Chest)
Writer Robert Jones came up with the idea watching murder trials in court and was inspired by the process of guilt itself and ideas surrounding the construction of a case from either sides of the trial. "When I saw people giving their testimony, it struck me how convincing people were when they were being questioned in their defence and how guilty they were when being questioned by the prosecution," he saw this as a compelling way to build a drama, giving the viewer the role of the jury based on testimonies from the characters given straight to camera.
Larsen wanted to get away from the slow unravelling traditional shows like Midsomer Murders and Lewis, "It is important to show this crime for what it often is, a vicious outburst of malicious energy and not the result of some cold-blooded killer who has planned something for years..." Larsen sees a lot of British crime drama as being too formulaic and who knows, Murder could be the boost to British crime drama that it needs. It could also bring some much needed attention to the region from television bosses and filmmakers who regularly use the city for its beautiful architecture, but very rarely for the city itself.
Whatever your plans are for this Sunday, we recommend sitting down in front of the box at 10pm and committing to Murder a go, even if for nothing more than a bit of sight spotting or to curse the negativity that is an unfair representation of our city on the whole.
Murder is on BBC2 at 10pm on Sunday 26 August 2012.
Watch a clip and find out more on the Radio Times website.