THE LIGHTER SIDE OF SCANDI NOIR

~ Posted by Robert Butler, January 25th 2014

It started with the curtains. Viewers had noticed something odd in the first series of "The Bridge"; then in the second series, when the detective's wife Mette moved house, they noticed it again. Her bedroom still had no curtains. On the comments thread that runs below the Guardian's weekly blog someone explained, "Scandinavians don't use curtains in their houses. Source: I live in Sweden." This idea did not appeal to others. "Do peeping Toms not exist in Scandinavia?"

The makers of "The Bridge"the second series reaches its penultimate episodes tomorrow night—present a gloriously noir world of poisonings, decomposing bodies and eco-terrorist threats. To achieve this, the cameraman has opted to work with 50 shades of grey. But small details about daily life keep letting in cheery little beams of light. It's not just the absence of curtains that gives the impression that Scandinavians feel safe in their surroundings and don't have anything to hide.

Someone asked, after the closing moments of the six episode, "Is it really that easy in Scandinavia to ring up directory enquiries and get the mobile number of a shipping magnate?" Someone else replied that it was. "It's amazing how much information on Swedish citizens is in the public domain. Phone numbers, addresses, cars". Another added, "You can find anything about anyone online. Every resident has a unique ID number."

There's the business about the front door, too. One comment said, "A Swedish colleague found it strange that people in the UK don't have their full names on the front door by the doorbell." Another added, "When I lived in Sweden someone (the caretaker?) put my name on the door the very same afternoon I moved into my flat."

And—judging from the stream of commentsthis Scandinavian openness goes well beyond names, phone numbers, addresses, car registrations. "Not only is all that information available on the internet," someone else said, "but everyone's annual salaries in Sweden are also posted on the tax office website, linked to your personal number."

It's impossible to imagine this happening in Britain. These small differences help explain a worrying plot development in last week's episodes. The blonde Swedish detective, Saga, decided on the spur of the moment to check into a hotel for a couple of nights rather than go home. She tells her boyfriend, "I just need some quality time alone." But very soon she finds her life in mortal danger. Wasn't it just too improbable, a viewer asked, that her whereabouts had been discovered so soon? No, someone replied. "This is Scandinaviathere are no curtains. It's not hard to find anyone after dark."

Photo: Martin (Kim Bodnia) and Saga (Sofia Helin) in "The Bridge" © BBC

Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life

See also: Truth tellers in "The Bridge", 10 Things from "The Killing"What "Borgen" owes to Blair and Jo Nesbø's route to 14m sales