Beck The Series: Volume 1
Starring Peter Haber, Mikael Persbrandt, Ingvar Hirdwall, Rebecka Hemse.
Detective Martin Beck investigates a series of crimes in Stockholm, Sweden alongside his partner Gunvald Larsson.
The contrast between the calm and studious internal world of celebrated Swedish detective Martin Beck and the drama of murderous crime is brought to the screen in fine style in these five feature-length episodes.
Comprising the last episode from season four (Buried Alive – a horror tinged tale that received a Swedish theatrical release in 2009) and four from the most recent series, this collection can either serve as a good introduction to the show or a reminder as to just why it has been so popular.
The reason why it has done so well is possibly down to its classic approach to the cop show format. It avoids gimmickry, instead concentrating on the twists of the stories and the conflicting personalities of the main players. The soberly calculating Beck (Peter Haber) and his rough-house colleague Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt) perfectly sum up the good cop/bad cop routine, and it is their interplay and occasionally problematic relationship that is the centrepiece of the stories.
The haunted sadness behind Beck’s eyes tell of a character who has a tired understanding that the world is a dark and unforgiving place. Peter Haber brings a level of introspective hurt to the quietly sensitive Beck. On the basis of these stories, he is a fundamentally honest man. Larsson, a tough guy with an old-fashioned approach to everything from cultural politics to investigation techniques, takes care of the action sequences that break up the tension.
The episodes that bookend this release are the most effective and disturbing. Buried Alive and The Hospital Murders both take a horror influence that works well against the sombre backdrop of the pale hued Stockholm. Aside from the well constructed story-lines – which aren’t really whodunnits, more about how Beck will get to the truth – the show is really concerned about growing older on your own.
Beck does have friends and a politely flirtatious relationship with the hospital’s lead medic, but the most striking scenes are often the ones involving him and his daughter (Rebecka Hemse). Despite familial affection and love, the pair find it difficult to understand each other or develop much of a common bond. Scenes between Beck and his retired luxury drink loving neighbour (Ingvar Hirdwall) also highlight the sense of dislocation that the lead character seems to have for the outside world.
A classic detective show and a solid example of how the crime genre can explore a range of topics (organised crime, international terrorism, euthanasia), not least what it’s like to age in a world you feel you no longer understand.
Beck The Series – Volume 1 is out now on Arrow Films
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer