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2020 | Book | 1. edition

Nordic Noir, Adaptation, Appropriation

Editors: Linda Badley, Andrew Nestingen, Jaakko Seppälä

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series : Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture


About this book

This book argues that adaptation is an underrecognized yet constitutive element of Nordic noir. In so doing, it reframes the prevailing critical view. Now celebrated for its global sweep, Nordic noir is equally a transmedial phenomenon. Nordic Noir, Adaptation, Appropriation deploys the tools of current adaptation studies to undertake a wide-ranging transcultural, intermedial exploration, adding an important new layer to the rich scholarship that has arisen around Nordic noir in recent years.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Nordic Noir as Adaptation
As the book’s introduction, this chapter argues that Nordic noir is an under-recognized and in fact constitutive element of Nordic noir and in so doing, reframes the prevailing critical view. Born from the genre of Scandinavian crime fiction and now celebrated for its regional and global sweep, Nordic noir has not been understood as the thoroughly transnational and transmedial phenomenon it is. Deploying the concepts and tools of current adaptation studies to undertake a wide-ranging geographical, transcultural, and intermedial exploration of Nordic noir, this volume approaches it less as a genre than as a brand, network, or family, thus adding an important new layer to the rich scholarship that has arisen around Nordic noir in recent years.
Linda Badley, Andrew Nestingen, Jaakko Seppälä


Chapter 2. Realistic and Mythological Appropriations of Nordic Noir: The Cases of Shetland and Ø
The question of appropriation is framed by focusing on the dual legacy of the Nordic crime fiction tradition, the center–periphery binary in Nordic noir, and the implications of location, especially the significance of the island. A dominant trend in Nordic noir explores a socially realistic universe. It is supplemented by another trend hinging on mythological or supernatural layers. On the background of the center–periphery binary and the island as an especially suited place for crimes, the dual legacy is explored in two examples of Nordic noir appropriations—the BBC Scotland series Shetland (2013–) and the French Studio+ production Ø (2016).
Gunhild Agger
Chapter 3. Arctic Noir on Screen: Midnight Sun (2016–) as a Mix of Geopolitical Criticism and Spectacular, Mythical Landscapes
This chapter focuses on the mix of political criticism and spectacular, mythical landscapes in the Swedish Arctic crime series Midnatssol (Midnight Sun, 2016–). Arctic noir not only adapts the double premises that characterize Nordic noir and Scandinavian crime fiction in general, the combination of a public-interest narrative thread, often political, with a crime investigation. It also demonstrates a triple premise including (a) the crime plot and its setting, (b) the political, critical, societal “plot,” and (c) the cinematic landscape. I analyze the landscapes in the series and link them to the idea of the Arctic sublime in art and cultural history. The article asks whether the distinct premises and gazes in Arctic noir support and reinforce each other or, perhaps instead, compete and conflict with each other.
Anne Marit Waade
Chapter 4. Arctic Noir: Revitalizing Sámi Culture Through Film Noir
The chapter discusses how Norwegian films made in the Arctic region use genre formats and elements from American genre films to create new counter-images of indigenous Sàmi culture. Using Nils Gaup’s noir-feature The Glass Dolls (2014) as an example, the chapter analyzes the adaptation of a serial killer crime novel set in the far north in order to discuss how author Jorun Thørring and director Nils Gaup create new and unconventional images of Arctic noir. The chapter traces the changes in the process of making a film noir from the crime novel by Thørring and discusses the representation of crime, of contemporary Norway, and of Sámi Culture.
Gunnar Iversen
Chapter 5. Law of the Land: Shades of Nordic Noir in an Arctic Western
Armoton maa (Law of the Land, Jussi Hiltunen, 2017) is a contemporary western set on a peripheral border region in western Lapland, Finland. Combining crime story and family drama, it is a complex case of genre hybridity. This chapter asks how Law of the Land adapts elements from Nordic noir and modifies the Lapland film, a mixture of films set in Lapland. The melancholy mood and the dark aesthetic links the film to Nordic noir, which has traveled to remote regions recently. However, Lapland can also be seen as a Finnish version of the Wild West. Law of the Land exemplifies both the mutation and vitality of Nordic noir as a style, demonstrating that it can be adapted by other genres, even by an arctic western.
Kaisa Hiltunen
Chapter 6. Revisiting the Crime Scene: Intermedial Translation, Adaptation, and Novelization of The Killing
Arguably, the most internationally successful TV drama to come out of the Nordic countries, Forbrydelsen (The Killing, 2007–2012) simultaneously circulated in subtitled or synchronized Danish and US television serials and as an English-language novelization, disseminated through multiple translations. This chapter interrogates the cross-cultural and intermedial adaptation networks of Forbrydelsen by exploring the ways in which this audio-visual text allows us to reflect on central concerns within adaptation studies about “originality” and “locatability” in a globalized intermedial landscape. Drawing on mobility studies, translation studies, and intermedial theory, it is argued that the localized Danish crime scenes of the original series are better viewed as thoroughly mobilized spaces, always in-translation and always to be revisited and remediated, which makes Forbrydelsen a notable example of globalized and hypermediated contemporary storytelling.
Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen
Chapter 7. “Why Don’t We Do Television Like That in the UK?”: Promotional and Paratextual Strategies in the Transnational Branding of Nordic Noir
This chapter explores the concept of Nordic noir as a promotional tool. The concept now operates as a free-floating signifier for user engagement/marketing across different national and regional markets and on a plethora of content delivery platforms. Here, promotional strategies such as trailers and television spots carry considerable weight for understanding how content is targeted at specific audiences and how they are positioned in the wider media environment. This chapter addresses such “paratextual” mechanisms which accompany the transmission of Nordic noir in the UK media environment, specifically on the BBC and ITV channels as well as their digital platforms. I especially focus on associations generated by branding and promotional strategies designed to reposition content such as River (BBC 2015) and Marcella (ITV, 2015–) as transnational adaptations of Nordic noir.
Pietari Kääpä


Chapter 8. The Postman Rings Yet Again
Few authors have had such a strong and enduring influence on film noir as James M. Cain. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1936) is probably one of the most frequently adapted novels, with French, Italian, and American versions as the most prominent. Lesser known is the Norwegian reworking of Cain, with the film Døden er et kjærtegn/Death is a Caress, made by Edith Carlmar (director) and Otto Carlmar (producer) in 1949. This article will demonstrate the close resemblance between Death is a Caress and Tay Garnet’s adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). In doing so, the article will provide an understanding of how a genre like film noir might travel from one continent to another, and the remolding that takes place in that process.
Audun Engelstad
Chapter 9. Nordic Noir: The Broad Picture
The chapter places Nordic Noir in a transnational network of film and television characterized by a special emphasis on introspective subjectivity, melodramatic pathos, the emotional experience of crime, links with local/global social contexts, and a realist aesthetics. It explores the similarities that connect the two versions of Wallander (2005–2013, SE; 2008–2016, UK), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011, UK) The Americans (2013–, USA), Politist, adjectiv (2009, RO), and Mar de plástico (2015–2016, SP), arguing that they represent a transnational phenomenon that has crystallized around an emotional investment in realism and a wave of crime fiction marked by its social content. This phenomenon, called the Introspective Realist Crime Film, has gained visibility at a time defined by the rise of new global social movements that demand a new public ethics and vindicate human rights as a new social contract.
Luis M. García-Mainar
Chapter 10. Anticipating Adaptation and Tracing the (In)Visible: David Lagercrantz’ The Girl in the Spider’s Web as Implicit Film Script
Nora Ephron famously complained that the prevalence of Stockholm street names in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy only created confusion: “Who cared, but there it was, in black-and-white, taking up space.” When the first post-Larsson sequel The Girl in the Spider’s Web was released in 2015, it became apparent that author Lagercrantz had listened to Ephron’s criticism, as the book is saturated with cultural codes pandering to global audiences. This article will draw upon adaptation studies as well as ‘invisibility studies,’ including surveillance technologies—the overarching theme of Lagercrantz’ book. But invisibility also concerns adaptations, as here the source text is only implicitly present, and also as a not yet visible (finished) film is traceable in the novel’s prose.
Maaret Koskinen
Chapter 11. After The Bridge? Adapting Nordic Noir Success into a Viable Audiovisual Industry in Southern Sweden
This chapter uses the term adaption in the sense of how a regionally based, popular culture phenomenon has nurtured structural economic transformation. The chapter elaborates a critical examination of the comparative popularity of Nordic noir, asking whether the two long-running film and television crime franchises Wallander (Wallander, (1994–2016) and The Bridge (Bron/Broen, 2011–2018) have been sufficient to establish a viable audiovisual production hub vigorous enough to sustain continued audiovisual production in Southern Sweden. The chapter contextualizes two crucial circumstances propelling Nordic noir film and television production. The text then scrutinizes the marketing advantages of a region being seen on the screen. Finally, a critical examination of the outcomes of the implemented strategies for film and television production is conducted.
Olof Hedling
Chapter 12. The Uncanny Valley of the Television Remake: Äkta Människor and Humans
The Swedish television series Äkta människor (2012–2014) and its British/US remake Humans (2015–2018), with their AI-themed depictions of near-sentient synthetic humans, present a useful pair of shows to think through questions of originality and repetition in international adaptations and remakes. Using Masahiro Mori’s idea of the “uncanny valley” to frame the discussion, this article examines the applicability of his concept to adaptation studies to explain potentially negative viewer reactions to adaptations that too closely simulate originals. The scrambled international distribution of these two shows created different experiences of “the original,” however, a confusion of sequence, and in the show’s relationship to both science fiction and Nordic Noir, a confusion of genre that challenges hierarchies of similarity and difference.
Mark B. Sandberg
Chapter 13. The Showrunner’s Touch: The Killing Revisited
This chapter studies the ways in which the Nordic noir classic Forbrydelsen (DR 2007–2012) was remade in the USA as The Killing (AMC/Netflix 2011–2014). The chapter argues that looking to the production and especially the adapting showrunner on the remake provides perspectives that have been overlooked in existing research on this particular adaptation process, and that using such a strategy may be key in studying other television series’ remaking processes as well. Concretely looking to the adapting showrunner’s experiences and preferences may explain changes from character to plot level, including shedding new light on what has been read as “American” obsessions with psychological explanations and culturally based hostility toward bad motherhood.
Lynge Stegger Gemzøe


Chapter 14. The Style of Nordic Noir: Bordertown as a Stylistic Adaptation of the Prototype
Nordic noir can be productively defined as a group style. The global popularity of prototypical Nordic noirs Forbrydelsen (The Killing, 2007–2012) and Bron/Broen (The Bridge, 2011–2018) encourages Nordic filmmakers and television producers to adapt and appropriate their conventions in the hope of reaching large audiences. Employing a specific style is a way of producing crime films and television series in an identifiable manner as Nordic noir. As a key example, the chapter analyzes how “the first Finnish Nordic noir” Sorjonen (Bordertown, 2016–) adapts and appropriates stylistic elements from The Bridge and The Killing in its use of (1) modernist art cinema elements, (2) conventions of the popular crime genre, and (3) Nordic regional elements. These are the three categories essential to Nordic noir.
Jaakko Seppälä
Chapter 15. From Nordic Noir to Euro Noir: Nordic Noir Influencing European Serial SVoD Drama
This chapter reads the stylistic and serial appearance of Nordic Noir and the adaptation of style and narrative from especially Forbrydelsen (The Killing, 2007–2012) in recent crime dramas produced for new important players on the European VOD market: the Czech crime drama Pustina (2016) produced for HBO Europe and the German supernatural crime drama Dark (2017) produced for Netflix. Besides involving cases of missing children, Dark also points toward new supernatural trends in Nordic and European crime drama, while Pustina takes what Glen Creeber (2015) called “the slow and melancholic pace” to further extremes in its obvious indebtedness to The Killing. Both serials deeply reflect Nordic Noir’s autumn aesthetics and utilization of real locations while indicating the transnational strategies of new VOD services.
Kim Toft Hansen
Chapter 16. Twilight of the Vikings: Probing Warriors, Fighting Shieldmaidens and Noir Gloom
The Vikings have returned along with their gods to the forefront of popular culture in recent years—more powerful, widespread and varied than ever before. This chapter focusses on a couple of case studies, Michael Hirst’s television series Vikings and Brian Wood’s graphic novel Northlanders, to account for the specificity of the new twenty-first-century Viking. The author argues that both works evidence a shift from mythology and legend to realism and historical authenticity. However, they also both grant exceptions in adapting the Norse heritage to contemporary norms when it comes to the representation of race and especially gender. The result is a fascinating mixture of the medieval world and that of today.
Björn Nordfjörd
Nordic Noir, Adaptation, Appropriation
Linda Badley
Andrew Nestingen
Jaakko Seppälä
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Springer International Publishing
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Print ISBN