🇳🇴 MONSTER 🇳🇴
*This review contains mild spoilers*
Monster (2017) is a Norwegian crime drama on All4 Walter Presents U.K., AppleTV Canada. 7 x 53-56 min. English subtitles.
“A young girl is missing, and her boyfriend dead. Police inspector Hedda Hersoug is back in her birthplace to live a quiet life, but is forced to work with the solitary outsider, Joel Dreyer, in hunting down a serial killer.” IMDb
Ingvild Holthe Bygdnes as Hedda Hersoug
Jakob Oftebro as Joel Dreyer
Bjørn Sundquist as Edvart Arvola
Gørild Mauseth as Margot van Gebert
Agnes Born as Jani van Gebert
Martin Furulund as Skule van Gebert
Reidar Sørensen as Einer Hersoug
Karoline Arntzen as Renate Nilsen
Bjørn Moan as Torgeir
Per Kjerstad as Hans Nilsen
Marius Kolbenstvedt as Bernt Hagen
Idea: Anne Sewitzky & Hans Christian Storrøsten
Writers: Anne Sewitzky, Hans Christian Storrøsten & Jadranko Mehic
Director: Anne Sewitzky & Pål Jackman
Music: Magnus Beite
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche
I think one of the most important aspects about Monster is the location itself. The fictional Nemesoara is “on the edge”, miles, and eons, away from Oslo. It is a mostly rural, desolate, depressed, beautiful, harsh environment. A place where a religious cult can thrive alongside drug manufacture and supply. Violence is bubbling under the surface and frequently bursts forth with fury. Many of the young seem to want to leave the place from which even Hedda’s mother disappeared years ago… This is a town with “history” between characters and disturbing, possibly occult traditions. To me this area epitomises these sorts of peripheral, excluded and excluding areas and communities.
Monster is a drama driven by complex characters, each with their own fears, secrets, hopes and flaws. Another aspect is the uncomfortable lack of dialogue in some scenes, which are there by design, they are meant to unnerve, unsettle and discomfort the viewer as much as the characters themselves. There is nothing wrong with silence as a tool to develop characters and storyline. Much is about what is not spoken and secrets that have been hidden away only to be gradually revealed.
Bearing in mind Nietzsche’s quote (see Notes) Monster is not so much about the serial killer but our two detectives – local police officer Hedda Gilbert and young, hotshot detective Joel Dreyer. They are on the hunt for a serial killer but it becomes more about them – especially Hedda, as this is her home town and the hunt becomes very personal.
Hedda is a deeply damaged person and not a clear cut “good cop”. She certainly isn’t easy to “love” or warm to. She returns home to a difficult relationship with her father and others in the town, after all, look how reluctant people are to let the young leave the place! I do strongly suspect that had a “prettier” actress been cast some viewers might feel more sympathy for her tragic backstory, her behaviour and the choices she makes.
Joel Dreyer is the total outsider, not only to this stark, grim and unwelcoming area but also Norway itself. He is psychologically damaged by his upbringing in Africa with religious zealots for parents. This explains his complete disorientation in the foggy forest, his fearful and traumatic reaction and then his furious attempt to “bury” his guilt. It also explains why he does not hear his “partner’s” cry for help and his desire for absolution which erupts into violence. His relationships with others are distorted and he is happiest lying down, looking at the sky with African music playing in his ears.
Guilt is a major theme in this show, and lots of characters either display (or fail) to display the guilt they feel, some deserved, much not.
We have many characters and minor stories which delve into the psychology of parent-child relationships and perceptions of connections. Characters are rarely good or bad – there is a lot of grey when the surface is scratched. How a “bad” character can, in fact, be “good”. Ultimately parents and how they raise their children is a keystone to this show, everything spins out from this.
There is an incredible nude scene but it has absolutely nothing to do with sex, it is two old men fighting and is quite primeval.
The cinematography and the music score are both very strong aspects of this show.
At the very end Hedda says she is staying because it is a “nice” place and I found myself thinking, “No Hedda, it really isn’t.”
My final verdict on Monster is that I really liked it, however I also think that the story, the characters and the execution makes it a TV show which will polarise viewers and that some will bail out, quite likely sooner rather than later.
European Script Award (2017) MOST INNOVATIVE SCRIPT OF THE YEAR BY A NEWCOMER FOR A SERIES: Monster ~ Written by Hans Christian Storrøsten
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