Category Archives: Crime fiction and film from Scandinavia

MIFF progress report #3: A Touch of Sin and Call Girl

call-girl-posterThe third and final part of my report back from the 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) looks at the Chinese film A Touch of Sin and Call Girl, a Swedish neo noir set in the early seventies.

First up, Call Girl. Apparently based on actual events, this 2012 thriller was one of the real surprises for me at MIFF.

Sweden is in election mode and it is seven days before the nation goes to the polls. It’s a universe away from Iris and her best friend Sonja, two young juvenile delinquents sent to live in a home for troubled youths.

The home has virtually zero supervision and the young people seem free to come and go at all hours of the day and night. Remember this is Sweden in the early seventies, an ultra permissive, self proclaimed social democratic paradise where the authorities are thinking about decriminalizing certain types of incest and the cops crack jokes about capitalism.

Tthrough a series of unfortunate interactions the two girls find themselves drawn into the orbit of a procurer for the sex trade called Dagmar and her creepy sidekick and lover, Roy.

Dagmar runs a call girl operation. Not just any call girl racket. Her clients include senior civil servants, politicians (including the Minister of Justice) and police.… Read more

Crime time at the 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival

grisgrisThe Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) approaches and, and as was the case in 2012, the good people at MIFF HQ have been good enough to give me media accreditation to cover some of the crime films on the program.

When I started to write this piece on my crime cinema picks for MIFF 2013, I realised nearly all my choices were films set outside of the Anglo world. This is in line with my usual practice of viewing films that I think are unlikely to get a mainstream release here. But it also reflects my growing interest in how developing or countries from the global South view and define crime cinema and crime and noir narratives.


One of my favourites from MIFF 2011 was the Congalese film Viva Rivathe story of a small-time gangster who returns from neighbouring Angola with a truckload of stolen petrol he hopes to sell Kinshasa at top dollar. I’m hoping that Grigis, a 2011 France/Chad coproduction is as good.

Directed by French-Chadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, it focuses on a young physically handicapped Chadian man who earns a living as a photographer and dancer in nightclubs, but yearns to make enough money to pay Mimi, one of the hostesses in the bar he works in, to marry him.… Read more

Headhunters and Laughing Policemen

Such is the speed with which Hollywood is keen to co-opt Scandinavian crime fiction, that even before the movie version of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters hit Australian cinemas, a US remake was in the works.

I’m curious what exactly the remake could do differently, given that Headhunters already feels so much like a mainstream American thriller.

By that I mean it is slick, fast paced and requires viewers to suspend their disbelief to an increasing degree as the plot unfolds.

I make no bones about my lack of knowledge of Scandinavian crime fiction and film, but it seems to me the only really Nordic qualities Headhunters has are some pretty creepy characters, the huge level of graphic violence and a lot of Ikea-like interior design.

Not that the film doesnlt have its merits.

Could you submerge yourself in a pit human shit or take another human life to escape someone trying to find and kill you? Those are just two of the situations faced by the main character in Headhunters, Roger Brown (Askel Hennie).

Brown is Norway’s most successful corporate headhunter. He’s got a thing about being short (five and a half feet) and a problem maintaining the lavish lifestyle expected by his taller, impossibly blonde trophy wife, Diana.

To make ends meet Brown moonlights as an art thief.… Read more