But America doesn’t only convert series from the UK. The series Broen (translated: The Bridge) is a cooperation between the Danish and the Swedish television industries, which has an Mexican/American counterpart.
From the first episode on, the police officer Sag Norén (in from Malmö is teamed up with the Copenhagen based Martin Rohde. Their case considers two half bodies, put together exactly on the border of the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. The legs belong to a Danish prostitute, deep-frozen and approximately 13 months old. The upper body is that of a Swedish politician. It becomes clear immediately that there is ideology at stake here.
This is confirmed when what is thought to be a bomb is placed in the car of one of the most merciless journalists of Sweden turns out to be merely a draw for attention. The point of all this, so the voice on the CD that Saga and Martin find says, that he needs to get heard. The ‘truth terrorist’ as he will be called later on, wants to address 5 problems in their joint society. When these get solved, their lives could be pretty good. ‘We have got interesting times ahead of us,’ he says in the end of the first episode.
In its Mexican/American counterpart the story remains quite the same. A Mexican prostitute and American judge are cut in half and put together as one on the (immense and well-protected) bridge between the border of America and Mexico. Sonya Cross and Marco Ruiz also have to work together, but the power play between these two characters is different from the start as the national background plays a big role. This is for instance clear when ‘one of the five problems’ the criminal mind wants to point out considers Mexicans in the United States.
Other differences concern language, style, characters and forming of the plot. As for language, it is interesting to see how Martin can make himself understood in Sweden, but that the cops he addresses at the same time laugh about his accent and have to listen very carefully. In The Bridge both characters speak English and Spanish fluently. Where the language is considered a kind of border in Scandinavia, this border is mostly enstrenghtened by economical and social differences in the southern part of America. In the small film Martin says that Malmö-Copenhagen is a region, in which there are committed crimes. People look the same, understand each other and have the same problems. This is very different from the US-Mexican differences.
Two large differences in the style of filming are the colours and the editing speed. The Scandinavian series is in gray, blue, contains overall darker colours and makes use of a very slow and steady filming. The tension is found in this unease, in the feeling of being too close on the skin of a character. In the American series however, the yellowish colour of the desert and the hysterical lights of the bigger and busier cities control the images. At the same time tension is made by fast cuts and dramatic tones.
One specially hard barrier to take when adapting Bron/Broen, is the character of Saga Norén. Sonya Cross is a character as socially awkward and without empathy as Saga, but the differences are major. The Guardian writes in an article that Cross is an interesting character on her own, but in the shadows of Saga Norén she does not quite make it. Vicky Frost asks in the last lines of her article whether the empathy we do feel for Saga but cannot for Sonya might be something that is merely ‘lost in translation’, but as long as you won’t learn Swedish or Danish we are afraid you might not find out.
In the article ‘What The Bridge tells us about Scandinavian social democracy – and why it’s not all good news’ Toby Young places the fames series in a broader social context. What do we expect of Scandinavia and how is represented here? Young writes that
[j]udging from the backdrop to the crimes the detectives are investigating, Sweden and Denmark are beset by the same problems as Britain — poverty, drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, etc. And when it comes to political extremism, they’re worse off than us if season two is anything to go by, with eco-terrorists constantly blowing things up and murdering people.
Whereas you would have thought the American-Mexican border is a perfect place to address social issues, the surprising part comes from the Scandinavian series. The program made it, according to Young, very clear that there was a price for the process to gender equality. With the Asperger’s syndrome Saga Norén acts exactly ‘like a man would in more traditional society’. She has, so to say, a ‘lack of feminine skills’. Martin at the same time has just undergone a vasectomy when we first meet him and takes a female role in the relation to his Swedish partner Saga (The Spectator).
In the same year as the American version of The Bridge, the French/English remake of the series called The Tunnel saw light. The tensions are more like the ones in the original series, because the differences between France and England are not as big as between America and Mexico.
What might be the most important difference between the series, as shortly mentioned in The Guardian as well, is everything concerned with the title object. The bridge has a different outlook, a way different significance for people living on both sides of it. That is why the remake can not be simply this, but there had to be alternations and that is why we find it too bad that the American version does not focus on the social issues, but more on the drama between the characters. There are so many of them.
Anouk, Laurie, Sjoerd & Sascha