Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Varg Veum (Norway) and Epitafios 2 (Argentina)

The third of the Varg Veum films, from the novels by Gunnar Staalesen, ran this week on the MhZ Networks in the U.S. This is the best of the ones shown so far: Veum is hired to locate a stolen car and in the process he steps into the middle of a messy divorce and ultimately stumbles into a race-track robbery and into the path of a murderer. His antagonistic/amicable relationship with Inspector Hamre is further developed, along with his friendly/professional relationship with Anna, the lawyer from the first of the films, and Veum also becomes involved with a woman who is entwined in all of the plotlines of this film. The story is less sensational than the previous film (which dealt with incest, gangsters, etc.) and the production gives a good sense of the territory within the city of Bergen that is Veum's usual stomping ground: the housing estate/apartment buildings, chop shop/auto repair shops, police station, and child welfare department. There's more humor, too, not just in Veum's relations with the police but also in subtle moments: at one point Veum brushes his hair aside to make sure the woman he's interested in will see the bruise on his forehead, the badge of his "hero" status. It's a telling moment that gives a sense of the subtlety of the series and the complexity of the character (both in the books and in Veum's realization by actor Trond Espen Seim--and the rest of the cast is excellent as well, effective and understated). My only complaints are that MhZ is only showing the series at a pace of about one episode a month, and they're so prudish or cautious that they're blurring the screen not only for nudity but for people in their underwear (very distracting, more so than letting the marginal amount of brief near-nudity remain). The plot of the new Epitafios series on HBO is more sensational (the series relies on serial killers and grisly murders) but not as lurid as the first Epitafios. Renzo and Marina, detectives in the federal police in Buenos Aires, are back, along with Renzo's father (who has a girlfriend, much to Renzo's dismay) and Marina's circle of russian-roulette players. The killer, whom we see from the beginning, is more complex and interesting than the evil genius of the first series, and we see more of the city as the detectives pass through, as well as in periodic aerial shots. I've only seen 2 episodes so far (out of 13) but so far it's very impressive.

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