She chews gum incessantly and her personal life is an unmitigated mess. So why am I, and why are so many others, so deeply interested in Sarah Lund (and her amazing sweaters)? Let me back up a bit. If you’re in the U.S., you might have seen a short-lived TV show on AMC called “The Killing.” In that American remake, the main character was called Sarah Linden. In the original Danish, she was Sarah Lund.
I don’t even remember how I heard originally about the series, called Forbrydelsen (The Crime), but, once I did a little online research, I had to see it — in the original Danish (with English subtitles), of course. The challenge of finding it — it’s only available on PAL format DVDs — was probably part of the allure, as was the promise of practicing my Danish and revisiting the country where I spent 5 months as a study abroad student.
Television these days has become — through the magic of Twitter and Facebook — an increasingly communal activity. It’s not quite like the days when there were only 3 or 4 channels, so the audiences for every show were bigger and water cooler conversation about the big hits was commonplace. But, as with many things Internet-enabled, it’s possible to find your tribe.
Watching this series has been a bit of a lonely experience, by contrast. My friends in the UK understand, but my husband thinks the show, with its dead-serious topics and Scandinavian winter light, is depressing. (Maybe I’m writing this blog post in an effort to find like-minded obsessives?)
Instead I see a fascinating troubled character in Lund, and I get a peek into some of the things that I love(d) about Denmark, Danish culture and its filmmaking (does anyone besides me remember Babette’s Feast?).
First, the emphasis on simple, useful but beautiful design. In a murder investigation, one gets to peer into a lot of homes and offices at various socioeconomic levels. No matter the circumstances, once nearly always finds something sød and hyggelig in the home — something sweet and cozy to brighten up the Scandinavian chill.
Lund, with her trademark sweaters, also embodies the practical and beautiful. Here are these uber-traditional sweaters, obviously hand-knitted, chunky and slightly imperfect. They look a little like something you’d imagine on a Norwegian skier back in the day. (Though they’re not cheap by any stretch.)
Yet, the way she wears them, with snug-fitting jeans and, often, a jacket on top — they manage to look modern and hip. She hardly wears any makeup, and her hair can be a bit unruly in the Danish wind, but she’s all about getting the job done, rather than worrying about appearances.
I’m watching the third season of the show right now — the latest — and I’m taking a break to write this and slow down, so I can savor my visits to this other faraway world. To let it go by so quickly and without remark, without a smile and a clink of glasses where you make sure your eyes meet, well, that wouldn’t be Danish, would it?