The Bridge: Some Thoughts

This past few weeks, when I haven’t been the person I usually am, I’ve spent a lot of time watching DVDs: a simple and efficient way of keeping my mind somewhere else whilst I let time seep slowly past me.

I’ve managed to get through the first two seasons of Person of Interest again, and start the third, which is ideal binge-watching stuff. It’s an entertainment, a thriller, easy to breeze through without my mind needing to engage that much. This time, I can see the hints, the foreshadowing, because I know what will eventually be revealed.

But I  also decided that, having bought the box-set a good few months ago now, it was time to re-watch The Bridge, aka Bron/Broen, all three series. It’s still as good as it was when I first watched it on those SkandiKrime BBC4 Saturday nights, and I was dreadfully short of detailed memories, having retained only the basic structure of the first two series, so watching those again was like beginning anew, but with a closer appreciation of how the various elements interwove, tributaries joining a hidden central stream whose banks only appeared late in each series.

Watching The Bridge III has been different. I reviewed it weekly, and when you do that it imprints the memories in you more deeply. I remember far more of it that I did of either of the first two series, with Kim Bodnia, working out the inescapable logic of who he was and what he had done.

I have just completed watching episode 6. Another couple of days and it will be complete, and I will turn to the box-set of The Killing, which I’ve had even longer and not yet re-lived. But episode 6 contained a scene that, as I watched it, a year or so ago, I thought was extraordinary, and which watching again was just as powerful, and which may be one of the most extraordinary scenes of television I have ever seen.

For those whose memory is not as directly stimulated as my own, Sofia Helin’s co-star in series 3, Thure Lindhardt, as Henrik Sabroe, is seen behaving strangely from his first serious introduction. He lives with a beautiful wife and two daughters but goes out to single’s nights for casual sex, which he discusses with his wife. There is something strange about this set-up, which is revealed to be a hallucination. Henrik’s family disappeared six years ago. The case is cold. He asks Saga to look at the file.

I was pleased to sense, correctly, that the family’s appearances were hallucinations (albeit only a short time before this was made explicit). Then came this extraordinary scene. Henrik has been keeping everybody out of his home. It is unchanged, in the irrational hope that by doing so, he is keeping his family alive in some manner, in the superstition that by doing so, they are staying alive.

It makes no sense. It’s like me with the Book of Remembrance in Dukinfield Crematorium, each year on my Dad’s anniversary, and how every year that there isn’t another name added to that page is somehow a sign of life. We who have been bereaved are prone to irrationality.

But Saga, herself disturbed by news of her mother’s suicide – an evil act, by an evil, controlling woman, deprived of power and authority over her daughters and determined to exercise it in a final act of destruction: Ann Petren radiated an understated but implacable evil in even her quietest moments – Saga comes to Henrik’s house late at night and, in the face of her unbudgable rationality, he lets her in.

And in quiet tones that are stable and self-comprehending, he confesses his madness to her, confesses that his wife and children are there with him, that in the six years of their absence he has looked at them and spoke to them and listened to them. They sit in the kitchen and, in a directorial masterstroke that is an ingenious as it is unobtrusive, the camera angle shifts from Saga’s perspective to Henrik’s and from one perspective there are three people in the room, Alice sitting at the table, listening, its top between her and her husband, and from the other there are only two, only those who are really there. But Alice appears from Saga’s perspective, though she cannot see and does not believe, and she is gone from Henrik’s perspective even though it is he who has held her here.

I wish I could have written that scene, but I haven’t and never will. But I understand it and I can stand inside it, and I can be Henrik for the time that that scene takes, even as I am in awe at the courage it takes to say what he says, to place yourself so wholly in someone’s trust, to bring them so deeply into your psyche.

It means all the more in that that is now something I cannot do. I can only watch from outside.

In so many ways, in so many scenes, The Bridge has been exceptional, on so many levels, and I am clinging to the hope that an unprecedented fourth series, one that may bring back Kim Bodnia, will eventually be made.

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