🇩🇰 THE CHESTNUT MAN 🇩🇰
The Chestnut Man (2021) aka Kastanjemanden is a Danish Netflix Original miniseries. A crime drama that is also a mystery/thriller. 6 x 60 min episodes in Danish and some English. Available with subtitles and dubbing. Cert 15 U.K.
“A young woman is found brutally murdered in a playground and one of her hands is missing. Above her hangs a small man-made of chestnuts.” IMDb
Danica Curcic as Naia Thulin
Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as Mark Hess
David Dencik as Simon Genz
Esben Dalgaard Andersen as Steen Hartung
Iben Dorner as Rosa Hartung
Louis Næss-Schmidt as Gustav Hartung
Lars Ranthe as Nylander
Liva Forsberg as Le Thulin
Morten Brovn as Frederik Vogel
Anders Hove as Aksel
Nicolai Dahl Hamilton as Hans Henrik Hauge
Elliott Crosset Hove as Linus Bekker
Arian Kashef as Jacob Rasouli
Ali Kazim as Nehru
Writers: Dorte Warnøe Høgh, David Sandreuter, Søren Sveistrup, Christoffer Örnfelt & Elsebeth Nielsen
Directors: Kasper Barfoed & Mikkel Serup
Cinematographer: Sine Vadstrup Brooker & Louise McLaughlin
Composer: Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Production Designer: Thomas Greve
Editors: Cathrine Ambus, Anja Farsig, Martin Schade & Lars Therkelsen
Art Director: Mathias Hassing
Costume Designer: Rikke Simonsen
The Chestnut Man is based on the novel of the same name by Søren Sveistrup.
Søren Sveistrup was also the creator of The Killing/Forbrydelsen. Other The Killing alumni include director Mikkel Serup.
Dorte Warnøe Høgh created When the Dust Settles and was Head Writer on Dicte.
Kristian Eidnes Andersen is a multi-award-winning composer.
The cast includes the multi-award-winning actors Danica Curcic (Warrior, Equinox, Nobel), Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (A Royal Affair, The Rain, The Legacy, Land of Mine), David Dencik (Face to Face, Chernobyl, Quicksand, McMafia, Top of the Lake, Follow the Money), Lars Ranthe (The Bridge, Another Round, Seaside Hotel, Face to Face, Upon the Storm, Warrior, Greyzone, Dicte, The Hunt), Iben Dorner (Rita, The Sommerdahl Murders, Borgen, Those Who Kill) and Elliott Crosset Hove (The Bridge, Winter Brothers, Follow the Money).
As a lover of Scandi noir, I anticipate what crime dramas from the region will probably be slow-burning, police officers troubled by how their job adversely affects them with stark, cold, white, blue and grey visuals. Atmospheric music will commonly combine with a “social realism” style of camerawork. I will touch occasionally upon how The Chestnut Man makes and breaks from standard Nordic noir through this review.
But let us start at the very beginning… cue atmospheric music…
Some TV series grab you by the scruff of your neck from the very start and drag you into the story, The Chestnut Man is one of these shows. I can honestly say that the first minutes leading up to the opening credits are some of the best, most atmospheric and deeply unsettling that I have watched. I jumped out of my skin before the credits even started!
The story itself unfolds over a mere 6 episodes and each one pushes the story forward in some way. While some may find the pace slow (I did not, personally) they may be confusing slowness with a lack of tons of flashy action. That’s not to say that there is no action in this, there is!
As is standard we are introduced to the two main officers involved in this investigation Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) and Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). Both have issues, both do not get on with each other at the start and they have a boss in Nylander (Lars Ranthe) who sometimes takes some persuasion not to just settle for the easy win.
Naia’s story as a struggling single parent is a trope but it does not drag the story away from the central mystery too much and at least she shows character development in this respect. That she too has had a troubled upbringing and no parents to rely upon for any help connects to the main story. The key here is her other “parental” relationship in the story by way of comparison with the perpetrator and the choice she makes for her child’s sake because her work is clearly affecting her child psychologically.
Hess’s backstory is gradually drip-fed in and works really well, especially regarding upping the stakes even more with one particularly explosive event. His is yet another story related to parenthood, trauma and tragedy.
At this point, it is worth looking at the casting in this because it is fantastic! These are all actors at the top of their game and I was particularly impressed and moved by, the performance of Esben Dalgaard Andersen as the dogged father of the missing, presumed dead girl. David Dencik never, ever disappoints either. You will not get better performances than these from all the cast in this production!
We do have an added political dimension to this story which gives it a wider interest and avenue for suspects, motives and repercussions but does not (as is sometimes the case) become a lead weight around the ankle of the story.
Talking of motives, what works incredibly well here are the false trails and also the reasons for the perpetrator doing what they do. What we can see are the terrible psychological effects of childhood trauma and abuse upon an individual. They truly believe that they are doing the right thing, and the crimes are nothing to do with sexual deviancy. Lies can have repercussions decades later.
The culprit meets an end full of poetic justice. Parts of The Chestnut Man are, perhaps, not for the squeamish and there are a few jump scares just for good measure. This is not a horror film but some elements are reminiscent of the genre. There is a continued sense of unease and heightened anxiety.
This is a tense piece of television. Tension is maintained through excellent direction. The final episode is one of the tensest and exciting episodes of TV in this genre that I have watched and has a real sense of jeopardy. The pacing of this over its snappy 6 episodes is excellent.
What is very different from the expected for a true Scandi noir is that visually it has a far warmer colour palette. The Chestnut Man takes its cue from the season and the story to delve into autumnal hues in its visual design. There are still the expected greys, blues and black but ever-present, and dominating these are shades of brown (especially chestnut) ochre, reds, yellows and greens which reflect the foliage shown in the overhead shots of the forest. Not only locations and sets but also the costuming continually use these colours. This is a radical departure from the usual muted, washed-out tones of your usual Nordic noir.
Combining with these are some fabulous cinematography, big visual and special effects and a beautiful, creepy, very atmospheric music score. Children’s voices are often beautiful to listen to but, my goodness, a song sung by them can be deeply unnerving when used in the right way.
I may never feel quite the same way about chestnuts again… and as for the song that the children sing in this… though I may just go and buy the novel to read in front of a toasty fire (minus any chestnuts toasting)!
The Chestnut Man is a dark, disturbing and sinister story that is up amongst the very best Nordic TV shows I have ever watched. I will be very surprised if it is not nominated for awards.
An ideal autumnal binge watch! Unreservedly recommended.
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