After the 2017 ‘submarine case’ murder of journalist Kim Wall in the Øresund Strait off the coast of Denmark and Sweden, Academy Award-nominated Tobias Lindholm (A War, Borgen, Follow the Money) was driven to make a series about the determination and humanity of those involved in the investigation. Those people who relentlessly searched for Ms Wall’s body and other vital evidence needed to prove the elements of a murder charge. Lindholm was also driven to make a series that did not glorify the perpetrator.
The result is a gripping six-part series starring Søren Malling (The Killing, Borgen) as head of Copenhagen Police homicide unit, Jens Møller, who must lead his team through the emotionally gruelling investigation to provide prosecutor, Jakob Buch-Jepsen (Pilou Asbæk, Game of Thrones, Borgen) with the solid evidence he needs to assure a guilty verdict against the murder suspect.
Why did you want to bring this story to the screen?
When I met chief investigator Jens Møller, he told me a story that was very different from the one I had followed in the media in 2017. The media coverage was obsessed with the perpetrator, the crime, and the darkness. But Jens was about hard work, dedication, science and humanity. It was about a society that worked. About unsung heroes. Stubborn divers, amazing Swedish police dogs, and a very unusual friendship between an investigator and two grieving parents. That story became my starting point.
Throughout the series we see familiar locations and faces from other Nordic Noir series, but everything else about The Investigation is in sharp contrast to the usual dark tropes of that genre. Why did you decide to present the series this way?
In general, the crime genre and Nordic Noir does not care about its victim(s). Normally we open our fascinating and thrilling stories with the finding of a dead female body. And then we never hear about her again. We simply focus on male detectives, get fascinated with male perpetrators, and get seduced by the darkness. I did not want to reproduce that.
The story about the crime and the perpetrator had already been covered and sensationalised in the press. And I had nothing new to add. Instead, I wanted to honour the hard work of all the investigators, divers and first responders. I wanted to honour [Kim Wall’s parents] Ingrid and Joachim Wall.
Did you spend much time with Kim’s parents, Ingrid and Joachim Wall? Were they onside with the idea of this series being made from the beginning?
Ingrid and Joachim have been part of the process all the way and helped me with their knowledge and honesty. Their strength and the humanity that you see in the TV series is real. Ingrid and Joachim are the strongest people I have ever met. Without them The Investigation would not be possible.
The performances of Pernilla August and Rolf Lassgård as Ingrid and Joachim Wall are extraordinary and extremely moving. Did you ask them to prep in any special way for these roles?
Pernilla and Rolf are two of the world’s finest actors and I didn’t have to ask them to do much. They spent some time with Ingrid and Joachim Wall and we had long conversations about grief, joy, life in general, and how to find the right tone. The rest is a result of their amazing talent and dedication.
I have read that you used some of the real divers and other people involved in the search. This certainly adds interest and authenticity, but were there any complications using large numbers of people who were not actors?
The divers play themselves. So do the Swedish police dogs and Ingrid and Joachim’s fantastic dog, Iso. We also use the real crane ship, the real crew that lifted the submarine, and we film by the real Kim Wall memorial heart at the beach in Trelleborg. I have used this method in all my work and I don’t see any complications as long as I don’t ask real divers to act as anything else but divers. The logic is that the actors act better than the diver, but the divers dive better than the actors.
You show the impact of the case and this type of police investigation on investigators. Has working on the series affected you emotionally?
Working with a case like this has of course affected me. That’s how it is working with reality. But it has not only been a confrontation with the darkness. I found a lot of hope and life and humanity in working with all these unsung heroes.
How did your collaboration with Copenhagen Police head of homicide, Jens Møller and his colleagues take place?
Jens and prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen were with me from the first spark of the idea and until the last day in the edit. Throughout the process I would confront my ideas with the reality that they represented to make sure that I did not betray reality with dramatic but unreal scenes.
How close to truth was the series’ portrayal of the Scandinavian media’s insensitivity around this case?
In the series there are two types of journalism. The investigative journalism and the tabloid press. I believe we presented the tabloid press as a bit less aggressive in our portrayal. In real life they were even more relentless and aggressive.
What were the biggest challenges of making a series that straddles documentary and drama? Was it a challenge to adhere to the facts within a narrative drama?
A big challenge was to translate the facts into dramatic points that would represent the logic of reality. That is always the case in portraying real-life events. In this case an even bigger challenge was to get the portrayal of Ingrid and Joachim right. The strength they show in real life could easily feel unrealistic on screen.
The science around the cadaver dogs and sea currents was fascinating. What were the challenges of this and filming in the Øresund Strait?
The real scientists would help us to get the research right. So that was easy. But shooting on water, in small boats with dogs and actors and real divers surrounded by big waves and rain coming in… Not sure I would do it again… But then again, it was nothing compared to the work we went out to portray.
The Investigation is now streaming at SBS On Demand: