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Film Studies 101
Feature
The Killing: A Guide To Making A Crime Classic
The show's creator, Søren Sveistrup on the ingredients for his cult TV show

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“I’m not missing Sarah Lund yet,” says The Killing’s creator and show-runner Søren Sveistrup. “Maybe that day will come. Now it’s a bit of a relief.” Having finished in Denmark in November and on Saturday night on BBC4, the finale of season three retires one of TV’s greatest detectives, Sofie Gråbøl’s Sarah Lund, and, especially in season one, one of TV’s greatest crime thrillers, a gripping mixture of mystery, miserablism, family, politics and knitwear. Here Sveistrup talks us through the ten key ingredients that made the show successful. “We are all suckers for a good crime story,” he says. “Maybe we feel attracted to it because as we live our normal lives and these stories take us to the edge. We get a chance to look into the abyss and then move back to the sofa and say, ‘Ooh, I’m happy that’s not me.”

Spoiler warning. If you haven't watched any of the three seasons of The Killing, major plot spoilers are contained within this feature.

WORDS IAN FREER
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1. The Inspiration

Set in Copenhagen, The Killing debuted on Danish TV on January 7, 2007 — BBC4 didn’t run it until 2011 — and was initially built on the premise of following a crime investigation over 20 days in 20 episodes (seasons two and three tightened the focus to ten days/ten episodes). The first season dealt with the murder of 19 year-old Nanna Birk Larsen, the second explored the killing of lawyer Anne Dragsholm and the third followed the kidnapping of nine year-old Emilie Zeuthen.

The Killing

“I felt a bit bored with the usual shows. Many of them were shows depicting a detective who had 45 minutes to solve a murder mystery and there was a serial killer and the next episode was exactly the same. At the same time, the heroine had her private life. She was dating the forensic guy. I just felt disillusioned. I felt it was unrealistic and I felt it was a recipe actually. So I wanted to do something more epic, something more novel-like. I didn’t want it to be just a police HQ story. I wanted it to be one killing uniting some characters living in a city. Everything was built up around the image of domino pieces falling: when one piece falls, everybody falls. I had this thought we could maybe tell a more realistic story about a murder than we had seen before. But the banal thing is that I just like thrillers. I like the whole idea of sending Sofie Gråbøl into dark basements.”

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