A good story is a good story regardless of where it’s filmed and in 'Trapped', SBS has an excellent show.
This 10-part Icelandic TV series broke all ratings records in its home country and has earned rave reviews elsewhere, so much so that there's talk of re-makes in other countries.
Airing on SBS On Demand, 'Trapped' is the brainchild of Everest director Baltasar Kormukur and is set in a snowed in small town in the Icelandic fjords.
The main protagonist is separated dad of two and local cop Andri (Olafur Darri Olaffson), who investigates the discovery of a dismembered body, pulled from the water just as a ferry pulls into harbour.
Naturally, it’s assumed that the killer is on board and the passengers are initially refused permission to disembark, much to the annoyance of the ferry captain.
Eventually, they are allowed off and a housed within the local community as a snowstorm cuts off all roads in and out. They’re ‘trapped’.
What follows is a traditional Agatha Christie-eque ‘who dunnit’ but with a very Icelandic tone. The landscape and Icelandic sensibilities setting it apart from Scandinavian shows like The Bridge and The Killing.
The series creator Baltasar Kormukur explains:
"When I came up with this idea, it was kind of like mixing Nordic 'noir' and Agatha Christie. The smallness of the town, the killer can be anyone of them. And the more you get into it, the more paranoid you are about who it is, who it can be"
“The landscape plays a big part in Icelandic movies, but in this case I wanted to take it even further. It becomes the obstacle. People are closed in because of the weather, because of the landscape they live in. They can't move around and there's a killer on the run”.
“So, the weather and the mountains become big characters in the story. And then I choose actors that 'look' like mountains. The lead character looks like a mountain in the bad weather, you know. That was the idea for casting him”.
So well is the story, told, scripted and filmed that you forget there are subtitles. In fact, it’s jarring when the characters break into English.
"We wanted it to be as authentic as possible. You know, there are a lot of foreigners and tourists in Iceland. Sometimes, I feel Icelandic movies and TV don't portray that at all.
And I loved that you say that you forget you're watching something with subtitles because that's been an obstacle for years and it seems that's finally been broken. When you make something that is approachable and enjoyable, then people don't care anymore".
Trapped was a monster hit in Iceland and in other countries where its been shown. In fact, water usage halved every Sunday that the show aired, while overseas viewing figures were bigger than every Icelandic show since 1966 combined.
That sort of success means there’s a pressure building on Kurmukur to come up with a second season.
“We’ve been asked a lot about a second season. Basically, we are writing it. When I’m happy enough with the scripts and the plot, then I’ll decide if we will make it.
I don’t want to make it just to make it. I want to make it if it can be as good as or better than the first, so that’s we’re at”.
Trapped is available to stream exclusively via SBS On Demand from Thursday, June 16th.
Nikole Gunn has been a watcher of TV since the 70s. A writer of words since the 80s. A reader of the news since the 90s; mostly on Triple M, Nova and Gold.
Twitter - @NikoleGunn