The Hunt for a Killer ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of scenes from The Hunt for a Killer (2020). Central image is the theatrical poster for the show.

🇸🇪 THE HUNT FOR A KILLER 🇸🇪

THE HUNT FOR A KILLER (2020) aka Jakten på en mödare is a Swedish crime drama miniseries. 6 x 45 min episodes. BBC Iplayer U.K.; Sundance Now USA; HayU Aus. PG-13 Cert U.K. Swedish with subtitles.

Premise:

“In March 1989, Sweden was rocked by the murder of 10-year-old Helen Nilsson, in Hörby in the country’s south. The case remained unsolved for 16 years. Hunt for a Killer follows the unwavering journey of police officers Per-Åke Åkesson and Monica Olhed who led the investigation team that eventually, against all odds, found Helen’s killer.” IMDb

Cast:

Anders Beckman as Per-Åke Åkesson
Lotten Roos as Monica Olhed
Håkan Bengtsson as Erik Johansson
Lars Schilken as Tonny Andersson
Rasmus Troedsson as Krister Berg
Catherine Jeppsson as Agneta Åkesson
Magnus Schmitz as Ulf Olsson
Sasha Becker as Jannica Becker
Mini Mårtensson as Helén Nilsson

English-language poster for The Hunt for a Killer

Crew:

Director: Mikail Marcimain
Writers: Tobias Barkman (Book), Lotta Erikson & Helén Lindholm
Cinematographer: Joe Maples
Music: Mattias Bärjed
Costume: Cilla Rörby
Hair & Makeup: AnnaCarin Lock, Yenifer Rojas Sanchez & Fanny Rätz Simonsen
Editor: Kristofer Nordin

Notes:

Mikail Marcimain also directed the miniseries Liberty

Kristofer Nordin was an Editor for White Wall, Moscow Noir, Liberty, Hassel, Before We Die, Midnight Sun, Blue Eyes and The Bridge

Swedish-language poster for The Hunt for a Killer (Jakten på en mördare) 2020.

Review:

I am always of the mind that TV series that are based on true stories of a nature such as the ones featured in The Hunt for a Killer have a responsibility to the victims, their friends and relatives and those professionals involved not to fall into sensationalism. A show about an infamous murder case in Sweden, made by Swedes, must keep its eye closely upon its principal audience.

A scene from The Hunt for a Killer (2020)

Every episode of The Hunt for a Killer opens with a title card that explains the way in which the show uses the events, case files and sentiments involved to create something true in spirit. I do sometimes wonder how many viewers read and digest title cards such as these…

Anders Beckman as Per-Åke Åkesson
(left) Lotten Roos as Monica Olhed (right) Håkan Bengtsson as Erik Johansson (centre) in a scene from The Hunt for a Murderer (2020)

One visual “trick” that I thought worked very well was the use of the newspaper front page signs to show us updates and to reinforce what has gone just before. Regarding media involvement, the persistent phone calls that Per-Åke receives from journalists is reminiscent of The Investigation.

I really like the cinematography in this which maintained a realism and often “fly on the wall” feeling. The way the times were recreated was incredible well done with hair, makeup, costuming, interiors and vehicles etc. all meticulously accurate, as far as I could tell. Bearing in mind this show was made principally for the domestic market I assume these aspects are spot on. Local accents are emphasised throughout. The editing on this is also excellent.

This show has a pacing that reflects the actual investigation (actually investigations, as it turns out) that lasted from 1989 until 2004. We have interludes where the initial murder case is, to all practical purposes, a cold case and it is only the dogged refusal of the main investigator to give up (and this in the face of organisational barriers and individual opposition) that finally sees the culprit prosecuted and imprisoned.

We are shown the inner workings of a Swedish police force dealing with institutional changes along with increased, often pointless, bureaucracy and budgetary constraints. All of which points to Per-Åke Åkesson as being ill-suited to the job, regardless of his excellent success rate. At this point, I should say that I think I know what I would have done with the Post-it notes and the “valued words”). We see that this case is only solved by Per-Åke deliberately breaking the rules. I was shocked by the lackadaisical way some of the tips were dealt with (or not!) but that is what happens when you ask for tips and then get swamped.

We are made privy to the requirements of sufficient hard evidence, failing a full confession, to obtain a conviction, and whilst we as viewers (as the team themselves) might find this frustrating, this is the real world. We see the invaluable use of DNA combined with good old-fashioned searches for evidence and new technology that finally gain results. A bit of good luck does not go amiss either!

A scene from The Hunt for a Murderer (2020)

We see a very grubby underbelly of Swedish society and how in many cases both victims AND perpetrators were failed by agencies and their communities, particularly when they were children. Whilst this does not excuse their crimes it does give a reason for them. Watching the interviews with those who committed such horrendous acts reminded me of the Netflix show Mindhunter. We witness these men and why they commit these crimes. Although they often cannot explain why coherently themselves there are common patterns such as suffering brutal violence as children. None of these was born a psychopath, they were all made. It is the skill of the interviewer, in this case, Monica Olhed who gains their trust, who manages to unlock these men (except one) and what they need to say.

The Hunt for a Killer is not full of big name or instantly recognisable actors and, for me, this made it a more effective piece as at no time do we have to engage in the whole “shedding” that previous role effect. The performances are universally great and never fall into scenery chewing or the like. Realistic, subtle and yet affecting, just like real people…

The Hunt for a Killer is a respectful and thought-provoking piece of Nordic noir. We see the negative effects of the investigation and the epic hindrances put in Per-Åke and his team’s way. Photographs of victims and bodies when discovered are shown (not real ones) but at no time does this feel gratuitous or disrespectful. We see the effect of the investigation upon an officer and gain insight into the deviant mind.

Anders Beckman as Per-Åke Åkesson
(centre) Lotten Roos as Monica Olhed (left) and Lars Schilken as Tonny Andersson (right) in a scene from The Hunt for a Murderer (2020)

This is an understated drama without bells and whistles and is all the better for it. If you want to be “entertained” and do not have the patience for a slow burn piece of television then perhaps this is not the series for you.

Trailer:

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2 Comments

  1. You make this sound like just the sort of crime drama/nordic noir that I would enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation!
    Derek

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