The Tunnel: Scandi noir takes on an Anglo-French aspect
‘The Tunnel’, a remake of Danish-Swedish murder drama ‘The Bridge’, begins with a dead body being found half in England, half in France
Sky’s remake of The Bridge sees Stephen Dillane investigate across borders
The latest series from Sky’s beefed-up drama department tests whether any TV remake can hope to capture that grey-sky bleakness that makes Scandi crime drama so compelling.
We have already been there with the successful BBC version of Wallander, the Swedish TV series based on Henning Mankell’s novels, and more recently with the US remake of The Killing, which succeeded in borrowing the plot but not the tension or atmosphere of the ground-breaking Danish original.
Now we have The Tunnel, a remake of Broen/Bron (The Bridge), the Danish-Swedish thriller that aired on BBC Four last year. Broen/Bron is critically acclaimed and a ratings success in the Nordic countries, where a second series has already been shown.
In the original series, the central, clever idea is that, after a dismembered body is found on the bridge that joins Denmark and Sweden, the crime must be investigated by both police forces.
Each has different cultural ideas, attitudes and a historic mistrust of each other, but they have to find a way to work together.
The Sky version is a co-production with French network Canal Plus. This time, the body of a woman is found in the Eurotunnel, halfway between France and England. Half of her body is in each country.
Both police forces are called in and a discovery at the crime scene dictates that the two must work together.
Here comes les rosbifs, remarks a French gendarme to her boss, detective Elise Wassermann (Clémence Poésy) as the British detective Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) approaches. He rolls his eyes, equally non-plussed at the thought of the encounter, and so the antagonism between the two lead detectives is established early.
As the plot unfolds – viewers of the original will already know it – the two hunt down a serial killer who appears to have a political agenda.
First drama in the tunnel
It’s the first time a drama has been filmed in the tunnel. The location proved a challenge for the production team, which involved a cast and crew of more than 100 people, most of whom didn’t speak each other’s language.
“Filming there is more difficult than filming in an airport,” says producer Ruth Kenley-Letts. “Security is so tight that everyone had to be checked, fingerprinted and photographed. The caterers had to be at the tunnel at 1.30am to get their trucks through X-ray [machines] so that the cast and crew would have their breakfast at 6am.”
The Bridge has such a compelling crime plot, coupled with a nuanced political and cultural dimension, that it has already had one remake. The FX network in the US picked up the franchise and last year made a version also called The Bridge. That 13-episode series is set on the bridge that joins Mexico with the US. It stars Diane Kruger as a Texan cop in El Paso and Demián Bichir as her Mexican opposite number in the Chihuahua police department.