Having read Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s novel I Remember You (Ég man þig) and seen the film adaptation, I found myself thinking about the theme of isolation.
A group of three adults head from Reykjavík to a remote outcrop of the Westfjords where they plan to do up an abandoned house and set it up as a B&B. The house is one of a few scattered buildings in all that remains of the abandoned village of Heysteri. Although not an island, it can only be reached by boat as there’s no roads over the mountain. In summer, it’s busy with visitors who want to climb or walk the hills and mountains that surround the area, but come winter and you are entirely cut off and alone.
In Ísafjörður, a boat ride away, lives a psychiatrist whose son has disappeared. His marriage collapsed in the face of their family tragedy, and he endures emotional isolation. He’s started to see what is either an apparition or a hallucination of his missing son. And a local woman, who was obsessed with the boy’s disappearance, has hanged herself in a church – which, it just so happens, had been moved from Heysteri and rebuilt.
Sigurðardóttir usually writes crime fiction, but even her “straight” crime fiction contains supernatural elements, be they a character’s fascination with seventeenth-century witchcraft, or the legend of babies who can still be heard crying on the rocks where they were left to die of exposure. There’s lots to learn by osmosis about Icelandic history, culture and traditions in her work.
Tom Hardy in Taboo, BBC. Some people found Tom’s hat unintentionally amusing.
I was excited about BBC1’s gritty historical drama Taboo. After all, it was created by Steven Knight (the man behind Peaky Blinders, which I love), Tom Hardy and Hardy’s dad. Knight wrote it, as fans of Peaky Blinders will immediately spot – the troubled amoral “hero”, everything leading up to a nail-biting and very satisfying final episode. And I really loved the character Lorna Bow – an actress and young widow.
But I have to say that watching the series, I spent half the time entertained (sometimes when I should have been and sometimes when the concept’s daftness overwhelmed me – the Tom Hardy Grunt Counter springs to mind), and half the time feeling rather irritated.
I can’t help it. I know my history, and… well…. Shall we say that I identified a couple of historical errors, which, as someone who knows about these things, I really feel I need to point out.
Hans Rosenfeldt (The Bridge) and Ed Thomas (Hinterland)
A perfect chaser for the talk by Walter Iuozzolino, he of Walter Presents, had to be the talk given by crime drama writer-creators Hans Rosenfeldt, of Swedish/Danish production The Bridge (Bron/Broen), and Ed Thomas, writer-creator of Welsh/English crime drama Hinterland (Y Gwyll). Walter curates subtitled drama, but what goes into writing – and indeed, creating – dramas which are filmed in two languages? This fascinating talk was hosted by Lisa Holdsworth, who has written for New Tricks, Robin Hood and Midsomer Murders, amongst others.
The annual Birmingham Literature Festival is run by Writing West Midlands, offering a programme of events about the written word – talks with writers, and workshops. This year, I attended something a bit different – a talk by screen-curator, Walter Iuzzolino, the real person behind Channel 4’s Walter Presents.
First of all, yes, Walter is a real person. Perhaps I am so jaded by the fakery of modern life that I thought, cynically, that he didn’t actually exist, and was just a marketing construct to put a human face and personality on Channel 4’s world drama picks. There he is in the trailer, a bespectacled, whippet-like figure, watching lots of DVDs – he’s watched 1,000s of hours of telly, to pick only the best for Walter Presents. But how can he watch all that telly and retain a physique like that? And yet, it slowly dawned on me that Walter is a real person – so when I found out he was talking at the BLF, I wanted to know more.
River with colleague/”manifest” Stevie
There are hundreds of crime dramas on our TVs, and each one tries to attack this old genre in a new way – set it in Oxford (Inspector Morse), set it in two countries at once (The Bridge), highlight new technology (the seemingly endless CSI and NCIS franchises, Silent Witness, Bones), show the legal process from start to finish (Law & Order), do history at the same time (Ripper Street, Whitechapel, Anno 1790, Inspector Whicher, Peaky Blinders), use lavish art deco sets (Poirot), plot the criminal brain (Cracker, Criminal Minds), update an old chestnut (Sherlock, Elementary), adapt novels and short stories (most of the aforesaid, Arne Dahl), have some nice scenery (Wycliffe, Vera), set it in Brighton (Cuffs)… etc etc etc. In none of these does anyone say “Let’s have a detective who’s haunted by dead people.”
But that’s where River is different.