How Nordic noir has taken over Netflix

Scandi-mania! How Nordic noir has taken over Netflix – from gruesome psychological thriller The Chestnut Man to Swedish murder mystery Quicksand

  • Psychological thriller The Chestnut Man was a hit with British viewers on Netflix
  • Swedish-made drama Caliphate received rave reviews after its’ release last year
  • Last year’s Young Wallander set in modern-day Sweden was also a hit with critics

Twisted Scandinavian drama The Chestnut Man had British viewers glued to their screen’s after its premiere on Netflix last month, earning a place in the UK’s top ten for weeks after its release. 

But it’s far from the only gripping Nordic noir on offer from the platform, with the likes of thrilling drama Caliphate and prequel series Young Wallander – both of which have received rave reviews from critics. 

The genre found global success with series like The Bridge, The Killing and Borgen. 

But thanks to the insatiable appetite for content from streaming services, the genre is enjoying a revival, and it’s the kind of gritty viewing that will appeal to fans of Squid Game looking for their next fix. 

THE CHESTNUT MAN (2021)

Danish series The Chestnut Man follows detectives Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) as she hunts down a twisted serial killer who brutally amputates and murders young, negligent mothers

Earning a solid place on Netflix’s top ten most popular show for weeks after launching on the platform, viewers were engrossed with the chilling psychological drama The Chestnut Man. 

Based on the debut novel of Søren Sveistrup who penned The Killing, the Danish series is set in Copenhagen and follows detectives Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) and Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). 

They are tasked with hunting down a twisted serial killer who brutally amputates and murders young, negligent mothers and leaves handmade dolls made of chestnuts at each crime scene. 

As the duo work to unmask the culprit, they discover that the case Kristine Hartung (Celine Mortensen) – the daughter of the Minister of Social Affairs who was kidnapped and reported as dead – is linked to the chestnut killer. 

Over six part series the detectives unveil the criminal’s intricate web of lies to discover a shocking truth and viewers have hailed the show ‘one of the best series this year’. 

Acclaimed Danish writer Søren explained that creating chestnut dolls is an annual tradition in Denmark and he was inspired by the ‘creepy’ song children sing when they make the figurines. 

‘One Autumn day a few years ago I came to pick up my youngest in kindergarten and I saw the kids assembling chestnut men while they were singing a children’s song: ‘Chestnut man, do come in, Chestnut man, do come in’, said Søren. 

‘To me, the invitation sounded creepy even though the context was so innocent. Or maybe exactly because the context was innocent. 

‘Anyway, I decided to follow my anxieties and use the small doll as a signature on a scene of crime’. 

YOUNG WALLANDER (2020) 

Young Wallander follows the origin story of the titular character set in modern-day Sweden was released on Netflix to rave reviews. Pictured, Adam Pålsson as young Wallander 

British re-make of the Swedish TV show Wallander, adapted novelist Henning Mankell’s popular novels, bought the genre to the forefront when it hit British screens in 2008. 

Last year the origin story of the titular character, Kurt Wallander, set in modern-day Sweden was released on Netflix to rave reviews. 

When he personally witnesses the bizarre and brutal murder of a teenage football player in his hometown of Malmo, the rookie police (Adam Pålsson) officer gets tapped to help investigate.  

The six-part drama sees the police officer investigate the local refugee community, leading to vicious racist backlash and anti-immigration marches into the city, before discovering that one of Sweden’s richest families could be involved in the attack.  

Young Wallander was produced by Yellow Bird UK, a branch of the Swedish film and television production company which produced the original series starring Kenneth Branagh. 

The branch of the company is based in central London and focuses on developing and creating Nordic noir which will appeal to British audiences. 

Young Wallander will be back with a new series launching on Netflix in 2022. 

QUICKSAND (2019)

Told through the eyes of the protagonist, Quicksand tells the story of 18-year-old Maja (Hanna Ardéhn) who stands accused of murder following a school shooting at her elite prep school

Based on the best-selling Swedish novel by Malin Persson Giolito, Quicksand has kept British viewers glued to their screens.  

Told through the eyes of the protagonist, the drama tells the story of 18-year-old Maja (Hanna Ardéhn) who stands accused of murder following a school shooting at her elite prep school. 

As the sole survivor of the attack, the six-part series explores whether she Maja was complicit in planning the shooting with her boyfriend Sebastian ‘Sibbe’ Fagerman (Felix Sandman). 

Published in 2016, the original book won Nordic Crime Novel of the Year and the head writer for the series, Camilla Ahlgren, is known for her work on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo film trilogy and The Bridge.  

Set in Danderyd, a wealthy suburb of Stockholm, Sandman said the series explores inequality in Sweden. 

‘Malin’s book is not just a story about this school shooting, in which everything starts. It is also a story of class and segregation, which is everywhere’, he told Swedish newspaper Moviezine. 

‘Although it is a very Swedish story, it is also a depiction of the society that is everywhere.’

CALIPHATE (2020) 

Nordic thriller Caliphate sees viewers meet Pervin (Gizem Erdogan) a young woman desperate to return to Sweden after travelling to Isis-held Raqqa where she lives with her husband Husam (Amed Bozan) 

After becoming the most-viewed series ever on Swedish streaming service SVT Play, Nordic thriller Caliphate launched on Netflix in March last year. 

The suspenseful eight-part series, produced by The Bridge creators Filmlance, follows three women who become entangled in Islamic extremism as an impending terrorist attack looms on Sweden. 

Viewers meet Pervin (Gizem Erdogan) a young woman desperate to return to Sweden after travelling to Isis-held Raqqa where she lives with her husband Husam and their newborn daughter.

While secretly plotting her escape by providing Swedish security services with information about the forthcoming attack, Pervin faces violence, the threat of death and horrific sexual assault.  

The officer assisting Pervin with her escape is Fatima (Aliette Opheim), a Swedish Security Service agent who suspects that members of service could be working against her. 

All the while, teenager Sulle (Nora Rios) is being groomed by her teacher’s assistant at a Muslim high school in Sweden, who is secretly an Isis recruiter. 

The series is based on an idea by Wilhelm Behrman, who created the series together with Nikolas Rockström and was directed by award-winning Bosnian-Swedish director Goran Kapetanovic.

BORDERTOWN (2016-2020)

Starring Ville Virtanen as detective inspector Kari Sorjonen, Bordertown- which released it’s third series last year – follows a respected National Bureau of Investigation’s officer

After smashing records in Finland, crime drama series Bordertown has gained international acclaim with high-profile fans including esteemed horror author Stephen King. 

Starring Ville Virtanen as detective inspector Kari Sorjonen, the series – which released its third series last year – follows a respected National Bureau of Investigation’s officer. 

Kari relocates to Lappeenranta, a small town near the Russian border after his wife survives brain cancer in search of a more peaceful life – but soon finds himself hot on the trails of a serial killer. 

The show, which was acquired by Netflix in 2017, won Golden Venla Awards for Best Drama Series, Best Actor (Ville Virtanen), and Best Actress (Anu Sinisalo) in the same year.   

Bordertown has since launched a spin off film for the streaming service and a fourth season is expected soon.  

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