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
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn