The Killing - [Madman]

Column: The Word on DVDs   |   Date Published: Tuesday, 14 June 11   |   Author: Justin Hook   |   5 years, 11 months ago

Every decade or so a TV show comes along that surgically attaches ass to couch. Danish crime drama The Killing (Forbrydelsen) is one such show. It’s also one of the best TV shows ever made.

Over the course of 20 hour-long episodes, The Killing redefines the procedural crime genre, thereby ruining every other pro-forma cop show in the process. Normal procedure dictates a crime happening, investigation ensuing and resolution within 43 minutes. Conversely, over a thousand tightly packed and utterly compelling minutes The Killing unravels every element of this basic and well-worn structure (all the while skewering the concept of a neatly contained crime drama) to reveal the true costs of crime – on the victim’s family, those wrongly accused, friends, politicians, investigators, the media and anyone unfortunate enough to get ensnared in the aftermath of an unseen murder. Each episode follows roughly a day in the life of the case.

Detective Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) is set to retire when detritus is found in a field. This leads to the discovery of a teenage girl bound in the boot of a car. Lund takes the case full throttle despite that new life in Sweden beckoning. As the case becomes more complicated Lund’s new life drifts off into the distance as she battles with prickly banana eating, no-smoking-in-the-office flouting offsider, Jan Meyer (Søren Malling). Through it all Gråbøl is as stoic as the sullen weather enveloping Copenhagen and isolating all those around her. Deliberately, it seems. She plays Lund purposely flat, falling prey to none of the usual female cop tropes – no sassy mouth, designer heels or office flings. Indeed her sensible thick sweater was the breakout star of the show when it first aired.

It’s impossible to distil where this show ends up or how it gets there but rest assured every step is nerve wracking and riveting. Tak indeed.

Human Planet (Blu Ray) - [Roadshow/BBC]:

Clocking in at over 800 minutes of sheer hi-def brilliance, Human Planet has just raised the bar on how nature/sociological/anthropological docos are done. A few months back we discussed the battle between National Geographic and the BBC’s Natural History Unit for nature doco supremacy. BBC has the reputation, tradition and history and accordingly the farthest to fall. Nat Geo, as the upstart in this caper, devoted their energies to technique and technology with some gripping successes. Sadly they fell over on the narrative front. No such misstep from the BBC. They own this stuff.

This sprawling doco divides itself up somewhat arbitrarily into eight parts: water, desert, rivers, jungles, Arctic, mountains, grasslands and cities. But in doing so it gets to cover, as you’d reasonably expect, every corner of the globe. It was a mammoth undertaking – four years and I imagine a few thousand terabytes of video. Whilst not overburdened with technical wizardry, the series slowly pieces together a picture of our world that’s well known (the oceans are deep, snow is cold) and less well known (tribesman who get to suspend their marriage vows and engage in a little bit of random sex when the drought breaks). Whatever the theme, the series zeroes in on specific stories to illustrate larger points. So we get Mongolian tundra farmers fretting about wolves attacking their flock - story as ancient as agriculture itself. And we get insane Filipino oxygen divers (100 metre garden hoses as lifelines) risking death to secure shrinking hauls of seafood thanks to overfishing. All up, life is perilous and a constant threat of imbalance, yet somehow we move on.

Human Planet is a visual smorgasbord; cinematography is universally jaw dropping. But underneath all those pretty pictures is a compelling narrative: we’re in this together so stop screwing it up. Your move, National Geographic.

Another Year - [Icon]:

In many ways Mike Leigh’s latest film Another Year refuses to conform to the basics of scriptwriting or filmmaking. There are no broadly painted character arcs. The drama is never over egged. The tension – and there is crisp tension throughout – comes not through artificial highly stylised set pieces, but through acutely observed simmering hostility between characters with real depth.

No surprise coming from a man notable for a strict adherence to a particular type of British realism unmatched in modern cinema. To some eyes it’s bleak. And partly that’s true. Leigh will never be accused of pandering to blockbuster escapism. But bleak implies a sense of despair and desolation, whereas Leigh imbues his films with a sense of ordinariness that can be quite confronting at times. His films are a constant reminder to us all that there is nothing wrong with living in the here and now, toiling away at whatever desk-monkey job we have, just getting by. And that’s exactly what is happening here. Tom (Jim Broadbent, brilliant as always) and Gerri Hepple (Ruth Sheen) live a happy existence in a non-descript semi in the suburbs, tending the garden at their allotment on the weekends. Through their open doors pass a parade of friends who over the years have clearly come to rely on the couple for their stability and openness. Mary (Lesley Manville) has ingratiated herself into Tom and Gerri’s lives to the point where she is an unofficial aunt figure. Through Mary’s inability to operate as a normal human being we witness the disintegration of a friendship that was possibly not worth it to begin with.

Another Year is a tremendous film. It’s also one of the few that filled me with slight regret that it had finished. I could have done another hour in these people’s lives, easy. 



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