Things I Can’t Watch When I Am Ironing #1: Trapped

Scandinavian drama has revolutionised TV watching for me. I can no longer watch while I knit, paint my nails, check Twitter, feed the cows on Castle Story or compose a blog post. I have to actually Watch. The. TV.

While this is a blow to my productivity, and means I get a lot less ironing done, it does make for a totally immersive experience. It’s those sub-titles, you see. Dip your head for a moment and you have missed a major plot twist or a searingly important clue.
Another thing about sub-titles; you still need to hear the dialogue. You can’t talk over the top of it and play some chilled out sounds. Your head needs to sync the subtitles with the voices or you lose the whole tone of the conversation. Weird.

Even though the plotting was tighter, Trapped took more concentrating than The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge because Icelandic names are so mad. In the Norweigan and Swedish dramas, you can tell when someone is saying someone’s name because it sounds like, y’know, a name. Sarah, Birgitte, Saga – all obviously names. In Icelandic the only name I could pick out was Andri. The murder victim was called something like Germuddseunorsoorr and it sounded something like “Erghurghoer” – as does the rest of Icelandic for that matter. The only word I picked up was “tak” for “thanks” and Scandi drama fans all know that by now anyway.

Hinrika, played by Ilmur Kristjánsdótti

Hinrika, played by Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir. She wears cardigans well

But this is not a criticism, oh no. Having to concentrate meant you couldn’t miss a thing, which was vital for this brilliant mash up of Agatha-Christie-meeting-gritty-ice-bound-edge-of-the-world-hell.

The (unpronounceable) town is tiny, served by three police officers who have hardly anything to do. Then a torso turns up in the fjord, then a nasty Lithuanian people-trafficker, then a man supposedly responsible for burning his girlfriend to death eight years before. At the same time, a white-out of a blizzard has cut the town off from the rest of the country, unhelped by an avalanche that increases the body count and (more unhelpfully) blocks the road.

The storyline is excellent, each twist and new clue dished out at just the right time with just the right amount of drama. For once, everything tied up properly and what could have been melodramatic (being locked in a deep freeze in Iceland…) was played so well it just ramped up the tension.

Being Iceland, the scenery is spectacular, obvs, and despite the body count, I can’t see Trapped doing the tourist trade anything but good.

As with all the Scandi-noirs, the acting is a knock-out. No-one is glamorous, no-one is over-emotional or over made-up, everyone is real. Wonderful Hinrika is one of the most fully-rounded characters on the screen at the moment, and the world is crying out to see Andri and her team up again for a second series.

Andri, played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson

Andri, played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. He is impervious to cold

Things I think about while iPlayer is buffering:

  • Who writes those sub-titles, and can I do it please? The Trapped sub-titles were pretty stagey – at one point someone supposedly says “you and your ilk”. Ilk? Ilk??! No-one says ilk anymore, do they?
  • In Scandinavian dramas they always interview children without any parental permission or responsible adult present. And the children are always pensive-looking and docile. Why? Is it the climate? Are they too cold to smile?
  • Why are the settees in Andri’s in-laws house so uncomfortable-looking? Does Ikea not ship to Iceland?
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