Hinterland and 35 Diwrnod: Step aside Scandi thrillers, here comes Wales

The next big television thrillers are set not in Sweden or Denmark, but in Wales. Gerard Gilbert on the gripping Welsh-language dramas that are making waves internationally

Dankly atmospheric European-fringe landscapes? Check. Murder detectives? Check. Subtitles? Check. BBC4? Check. And yet Hinterland, the latest drama to follow in the hallowed footsteps of The Killing, The Bridge and Wallander is not set in Denmark or Sweden but in the peat bogs and ancient woodlands of Ceredigion in Mid Wales. Filmed simultaneously in English and Welsh, the S4C detective drama known in its native tongue as Y Gwill stars Merthyr Tydfil-raised actor Richard Harrington as a troubled policeman newly transferred to Aberystwyth from the Met.

Already screened on S4C, the publicly funded Welsh-language television channel based in Cardiff, and BBC Wales, the drama has also proved a hit domestically and internationally – having been snapped up by broadcasters in various countries, none more eye-catchingly than by DR, the Danish state broadcaster who make The Killing and Borgen. And now, The Independent can exclusively reveal, Netflix, the online streaming giant responsible for House of Cards, has purchased Hinterland for broadcast in North America and Canada. Little wonder that S4C have simultaneously announced that a second series will start filming in September.

The only disappointment for subtitled-noir purists is that Hinterland won't be shown in Welsh when it goes out on BBC4 later this month. The decision to film in dual languages was purely financial, says S4C's drama commissioner Gwawr Lloyd. "In order to sell it beyond Wales, we needed an English version," she says, adding that this was before the success of The Killing. "I think the success of those Scandi shows has proved the world really likes seeing the drama unfold through a different language," says Ed Thomas, the Swansea-born playwright who created Hinterland.

An acclaimed playwright, Thomas decided that his central character should be the mysterious and under-exploited landscape of the Welsh Mid West. "We wanted to try and grow the story out of that landscape and give it a local feel with a universal reach," he says.

Thomas came up with the idea for Hinterland before the vogue for Nordic noir. "We were aware of Wallander," he says. "But The Killing and The Bridge hadn't been aired. But [when they did] it certainly made it easier raising the finance, because people would think, 'Ah, okay, this is that kind of drama…' People liked that it had a sense of place." And that place is Aberystwyth and the dramatic hinterland that gives the show its title. Richard Harrington, who plays DCI Tom Mathias (a troubled soul, it almost goes without saying) and his co-star Mali Harries, who plays DS Mared Rhys, spent time with the local murder detectives, some of whom had worked on the case of April Jones, the five-year-old from Machynlleth murdered by Mark Bridger in 2012. "The sensitivity around that case [affected] what stories we developed and how we handled them," says Thomas.

'Hinterland' isn't S4C's only foray into the genre 'Hinterland' isn't S4C's only foray into the genre Hinterland isn't S4C's only foray into the genre, and 35 Diwrnod, which translates as 35 Days, is an innovative crime drama in which viewers play the detective. Written by Bafta Cymru-winning scriptwriter Siwan Jones and Welsh-language novelist Wiliam Owen Roberts, it starts with the body of a woman lying murdered on her suburban living-room carpet, the action spooling back 35 days as it introduces the victim's neighbours. "It's a murder mystery without police procedure," explains Gwawr Lloyd. "We try to work it out for ourselves."

In my opinion, 35 Days, which started screening in Wales in late March, is every bit as gripping in its smaller-scale way as Broadchurch, and you can find it on S4C's catch-up service, Clic. Non-Welsh-speakers should hit the subtitles button as, unlike Hinterland, 35 Days isn't a dual-language production. What was it like, I asked Ed Thomas, filming in two languages? "We'd rehearse and shoot it in English, because only some of the crew could speak Welsh," he says. "The actors soon got used to it." He adds that the use of Welsh had an unexpected benefit for those who feel that cop shows can become bogged down in official jargon. "Welsh is terrific for poetry and everyday speech and history," he says. "But it doesn't really lend itself to police procedural or legalese. Anyway, we wanted to be quite fast and loose about the procedural stuff."

It seems that viewers are in accord with Thomas's instincts, and crave this combination of localism and landscape; witness the success of BBC1's Shetland and the fact that Sky Atlantic are busy filming (in Iceland) a 12-part drama set in the Arctic Circle, and Fortitude, which will star Sofie Grabol from The Killing. "Maybe it is the fact that modern life is so homogenised," muses Thomas. "In Hinterland, the stories never take place in the suburbs… and there's no obvious reference to the sprawl of out-of-town shopping developments or things that would render Aberystwyth like everywhere else. Not that Aberystwyth has many of those. "

'Hinterland' begins on BBC4 on 28 April; '35 Days/35 Diwrnod' is on Sundays on S4C

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style