‘The Chestnut Man’: Chilling New Nordic Noir Series On Netflix
New Nordic noir series The Chestnut Man (Kastanjemanden) is on Netflix from September 29. Based on the debut novel of The Killing creator, Søren Sveistrup, The Chestnut Man is a chilling psychological thriller in just 6 episodes that will have you hooked.
The Chestnut Man opens with the discovery of the brutal murders of an entire family in an isolated farm in 1987. More than thirty years later, in present day Copenhagen, a young woman is found brutally murdered in a playground with one of her hands missing. Detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) is assigned to the case. With her reluctant new partner, Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), they notice a tiny figurine made of chestnuts lying next to the body. A mysterious piece of evidence is soon discovered on the chestnut man—the fingerprint of a missing girl, the daughter of politician Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner).
All the ingredients of a great Nordic noir are there: violent and gruesome serial murders, a work-obsessive female detective, an initially-hostile detective partnership, and a dark grizzly, in this case autumnal, mood pervading throughout. Fans of The Killing will not be disappointed (although they might miss Sarah Lund’s iconic sweaters).
The Chestnut Man opens with horrifying images of a whole family slaughtered in their home, discovered by a soon-to-be-retired policeman sent to investigate stray farm animals. This opening sequence sets the tone, dark and unforgiving, and looms over the episodes, unmentioned until its significance is revealed much later in the series. The sequence ends with one clue as to how it relates to the future serial murders, when the policeman finds a room filled with chestnut men.
In present day Copenhagen, these chestnut men are the calling card of a mysterious serial murderer left next to the mutilated bodies of seemingly unconnected women. The chestnut men further link the murders to another year-old case of a missing girl, Kristine Hartung, the daughter of politician Rosa Hartung, which is considered by the police as solved. A man named Linus Bekker confessed to her murder.
The Chestnut Man is an intense, and at times quite scary, thriller with an incredibly well-paced structure, leaving a trail of crumbs for its detective duo and the viewers to pick up and connect the dots to an unexpected and satisfying ending.
Thulin and Hess form an engaging if familiar duo. Naia Thulin is a great homicide detective, but wants to transfer to the cybernetic department, so that she may spend more time with her daughter Le. A single mother, Thulin relies heavily on her adopted father to look after her daughter. The reason for this becomes clear as the series unfold. Thulin becomes so absorbed in solving the case she is investigating that she easily leaves in the middle of dinner or Le’s school play.
Mark Hess is a Europol agent, with a mysterious past, who has been assigned to this case. Although Hess appears to Thulin as uninterested in the case, creating initial friction between the two, he soon becomes just as obsessed with solving it as Thulin, pushing for further investigation on certain links that Thulin did not dare make. The relationship between Thulin and Hess builds up steadily, going from initial mistrust to mutual understanding once they get to know each other a little better.
The Chestnut Man is a great Nordic Noir, an absorbing murder mystery with themes of grief, revenge, parenthood and child abuse. I think its only flaw is that it is only 6 episodes long. A SAM Productions series, The Chestnut Man was directed by Mikkel Serup and Kasper Barfoed, and co-written for the screen by Søren Sveistrup, Dorte W. Høgh and David Sandreuter.