It’s a case of the Welsh selling Nordic “noir” back to Scandinavia. The Danish broadcaster behind The Killing has snapped up a Welsh-language detective drama after declaring the remote landscape and supressed violence of Aberystwyth to be the “new Noir”.
With Detective Inspector Sarah Lund finally hanging up her Faroese jumper at the conclusion of The Killing III on BBC4 this weekend, DR Denmark, the channel which produced the series, believes it has found its natural successor in a remote Welsh coastal town.
DR Denmark has acquired Hinterland, an atmospheric Welsh police thriller, backed by Welsh language broadcaster S4C, which has begun shooting in the seaside resort of Aberystwyth and the surrounding Ceredigion countryside.
The series stars Lark Rise To Candleford actor Richard Harrington in the lead role of DCI Tom Mathias, who is on the run from a troubled past in London, and partners with local girl DI Mared Rhys to investigate local crimes.
DR Denmark, which followed The Killing with the acclaimed series The Bridge and political drama Borden, was attracted by Hinterland’s location, on the remote west coast of Wales.
The story, which opens with the discovery of a grizzly body, is set against a backdrop of mountainous land, isolated farms and a close-knit village.
The channel believes the landscape and scenario will appeal to viewers familiar with the nocturnal scenes of Nordic gloom in the Copenhagen-set series.
Dr Kaare Schmidt, DR series acquisitions executive, said: “Set against the mountainous backdrop of Aberystwyth, Hinterland has the suspenseful noir atmosphere of understated violence and moral ambiguity that defines the new Scandinavian wave of social crime dramas like The Killing.”
Described by its producers as “inventive and chilling”, the eight-part series will be shot separately in both Welsh and English, with the actors repeating their scenes in the alternative language, the first dual language production of its kind.
It will be screened on S4C first in Welsh, under the title Mathias, with the English version to follow on BBC Wales and BBC4, in its Saturday night imported drama slot.
The Killing has boosted tourism to Denmark and Gwawr Martha Lloyd, S4C Drama Commissioner, believes the series will have a similar impact in Wales.
“We really want this production to enable the viewer to get a feel for our wonderful area - the scenery and the people who make Ceredigion what it is,” she said.
Shooting has begun at the spectacular Devil’s Bridge waterfalls and Borth, a coastal stretch in the shadow of Snowdonia.
Like Sarah Lund, Hinterland’s hero DCI Mathias is described as an intuitive and passionate detective, compelled to find justice. But he is tortured by guilt about his past and comes to Aberystwyth in search of a new beginning. Inevitably for a TV detective, Mathias often succeeds despite his unorthodox methods.
Aberystwyth has already bred its own form of noir. Author Malcolm Pryce set his cult Raymond Chandler-inspired novels about a private detective called Louie Knight in the resort, including The Unbearable Lightness Of Being In Aberystwyth.
Local author Niall Griffiths was hailed as a major talent for his novel Sheepshagger, which depicted a group of rebellious, drug-taking Welsh youngsters, earned comparisons to Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.
Denmark DR announced that The Killing, starring Sofie Gråbøl, which first aired in 2007, would come to an end at the conclusion of its third series. Its popularity in Britain challenged assumptions that viewers would not watched subtitled programmes and has opened the door for a wave of European drama imports.
Hinterland is a collaboration between Cardiff-based independent producers Fiction Factory, BBC Wales, All3Media International and S4C. BBC4 has taken a minority stake in the production and will benefit from international sales.