Monday, 4 July 2016

DICTE: CRIME REPORTER

Note: There is a little bit of spoiler in the following.Though I haven't mentioned which character needs a kidney transplant and is on dialysis in one episode & then apparently OK in the next. The Danish title of this series is Dicte, but for Channel 4's Walter strand this crime series has been retitled Dicte: Crime Reporter. That makes it sound a bit like a comic strip, or a pulp magazine story, or a B movie series from the Forties. And though that tone is probably pretty accurate, it really ought to have been called Dicte: Angel of Death, or better Dicte: Corpse Magnet, because in just the first three episodes Dicte has discovered a corpse while squatting to pee beside a dumpster; discovered her next-door neighbour hung, and interrupted coffee with her friend Anne to fish a dead baby out of the river. This would be considered suspicious if the cops were to think that Dicte was making stories to enchance her career as a crime reporter.

Actually, a better title might have been Sex and the Danish City, because what we've got here is a kind of cross between The Bridge and Sex And the City, the city in this case being Aarhus, Denmark's very second city, to which Dicte has returned after divorcing her unfaithful husband. The Sex and the City bit is a reference to Dicte's two childhood friends: Anne the single nurse and Ida Marie, the pregnant housewife with the husband absent on business. They chat about men, and sex, and of course find corpses floating in the river when that gets boring.

It reminds me of The Bridge because one of the early charms of that series was the contrast of ethnic stereotypes: the party-loving non-stop shagging Dane (Kim Bodnia) and the Spock-like logical unemotional Swede (Sofia Helin). Someone at DR must have figured Bodnia's Martin Rohde was letting the side down, because in Dicte everybody is shacking up, as they say in Quebec. Dicte has a zipless with the world's sexiest pediatrician; her photographer Bo (Dar Salim, who will be familiar from Borgen) has had one with the receptionist; and when Dicte catches him on the office couch with two women he jokes that together their ages make 44 so that's alright. When Dicte refuses to cooperate with the police her crusty old editor, named Kaiser like some German emperor or someone's dog (and played well by Peter Schroeder) tells her to give Wagner a blowjob to apologise; when she coorperates by handing over Bo's photos, he tells her to buy everyone a drink and do a strip tease to apologise. Danish sex and sexual politics are still way too fast for most of us.

Dicte's daughter (Emilie Kruse) has found her own boyfriend, only he becomes a suspect in her first case. Everybody's at it, except the quiet police detective Wagner, played by Lars Bergman, who always plays the quiet detective. His partner Bendston (Ditta Ylva Olson) is a lesbian, and he can't keep up with her dates, but he's too busy for it all, plus, like Dicte he's been married and divorced. Too busy, that is, until he meets the heavily pregnant Ida Marie, and it's lust at first sight. Obviously something in the Aarhus air sets the Danish pastry cooking.

Dicte's big difference is her past. She got pregnant when she was 16 but her strict Jehovah's Witness parents forced her to give up her baby. Now she has her daughter, who's quite mature but upset by her parents' divorce, and she's looking for her lost son. Thus it's probably not coincidence that the storylines tend to revolve around parents and children, if not always Dcite and hers. 

Having said all that, and suspending one's disbelief that Aarhus could join Ystad in becoming the world's second Scandinavian murder capital, Dicte's enjoyable, in large part because Iben Hjejle plays her with fearless abandon. She is dogged, but impulsive. She lacks a certain degree of sophistication, accessorizes like a teenager, and seems to have a pilot light that flicks to full without warning. There's a certain sense of schadenfreude about watching her private life as much as watching her always open the door that shouldn't be opened, or skip on waiting for the help she ought to know she will need. But she's immensely likeable, and the audience is surely rooting for her slimy ex-husband (a shrink) to become one of the victims-next-door sooner or later, especially after he starts sleeping with her friend Anne. Dicte's part Miss Marple and part Hildy Johnson, but she's all Dane. Which apparently keeps one very busy.

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