“Bordertown”– New Boundaries in Scandinavian Noir

Bordertown Netflix original

Bordertown (Sojornen)

You can escape the big city and its frenetic fierceness, but you can’t escape murder, not even in the hinterland of Finland. That’s the psychologically disturbing theme in Bordertown, Netflix’s latest international acquisition and the latest Scandinavian Noir drama that’s sure to mesmerize audiences.

Bordertown is also a drama about family in which crime disrupts and plagues the family’s attempts at intimacy and communication.

The main character, Detective Kari Sorjonen, decides he needs to leave the horrors of urban crime for a slower pace, moving his wife and teenage daughter to his wife’s hometown bordering St. Petersburg. Looking for balance between family and work, Sorjonen soon finds himself in the midst of a disturbing investigation tangentially linking the brutal murders of teenage girls to his own family.

The brooding, dark environment –like all great Nordic Noir —underscores the underbelly of nasty psychopaths and their heinous crimes. In Bordertown almost all of the horror involves teenage girls–but the main plot which carries emotional weight throughout the series is that Kari Sorjonen just wants to have dinner with his family without being called away to another brutal murder scene. The fact that his daughter is the same age as the victims overwhelms and drives Sorjonen to maniacally solve each crime.

Sorjonen, as a savant with picture-perfect photographic memory, literally constructs memory palaces with masking tape laid out on the floor. Dysfunctional and deeply flawed in many ways (like Sherlock Holmes, Adrian Monk, and the autistic female detective in each of three adaptations of Brön or The Bridge), Sorjonen is a brilliant crime solver.

If you’re looking for a new heart-pounding crime drama series with one crime solved in two or three succeeding episodes (“Doll’s House, Parts 1, 2 and 3; then “Dragonflies”, Parts 1 and 2), then this is a great option. You can binge view until the crime is solved, three hours of viewing max, before moving on to the next murder.

I’ve got six more episodes to go!

Note: Bordertown‘s series premiere in Finland (October 2016) drew a record 1.1 million viewers, which is roughly a fifth of the country’s population.

The Salesman–Not Exactly Arthur Miller

The Salesman movieThis 2017 Academy Winner for Best Foreign Film defies easy categorization.   The masterful Asghar Farhadi is the director, screenwriter, and producer of the 2013 Cannes Winner, “The Past”, the 2011 Academy Award Winner of “A Separation” and his most recent, The Salesman. All three of these Iranian films are idiosyncratic narratives of Shakespearean themes . The first destabilizes the past reminding us of unintended consequences (The Past), the second focuses on the nature of truth when there are no moral absolutes (A Separation), and the third reveals primal vindictiveness and revenge when one’s family is attacked (The Salesman). The Salesman, despite its low dramatic temperature and pacing, will raise questions about compassion and loss and human decency.

An Iranian couple –Emad and Rana– move to a new apartment. The couple are both acting in a production of “The Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, with some censorship by the government. After a horrific act of violence, Rana does not wish to report the incident, raising questions for her husband Emad and the audience. Rana withdraws emotionally from the trauma and her performance as a stage actress is affected. The air between Rana and Emad remains disturbed. Not capable of communicating their shock and injury to each other, Emad becomes obsessed with demanding revenge from the guilty party and sets out to find him. As the wounded husband who cannot speak of the unspeakable, Emad transforms into someone Rana cannot understand. Now what is unsaid cannot be said. Each is afraid to say the wrong thing more than saying nothing at all.

Miller’s play, The Death of a Salesman” is the cinematic device to create a play within a play, having Enad and Rana mirror the marriage of Willy Loman and his wife Linda. However, with their marriage’s fragility as one of the central plots, the cultural divide between Iranian culture and American seems to obstruct the viewer’s comprehension or sympathy for both Enad and Rana, although Rana’s loss is more poignant and more accessible.

Not as impressive a film as his two earlier award-winning ones, “The Salesman” suffers from its play-within-a-play conceit, a parallelism between the heart-breaking marriage of the Lomans and that of Emad and Rana. This dramatic device did not succeed for this reviewer, and in fact was a distraction, although wondering how this couple would come to terms with their trauma held my interest.

 

Carmel Bach Festival–The Joy of Music

Carmel Bach Festival 2017 program

Now celebrating its 80th anniversary, the world-renowned Carmel Bach Festival has just begun its summer season! If you are in the Carmel, California area sometime between July 9th and July 29th, stop by and experience the exuberant classical and contemporary music masterpieces being featured.

A touchstone of music in scenic Monterey and Carmel, this world-class music festival offers more than 25 chamber concerts, traditional chorale recitals, and full orchestraI programs. Some of the Carmel Bach Festival concerts are free, often accompanied by lectures by the Art Director and Principal Conductor. Open rehearsals and workshops for emerging musicians are educational and thoroughly enjoyable too.

I was fortunate to listen to one of the first pre-festival concerts so far this season at the beautiful Carmel Presbyterian Church. The Circle of Strings Quartet–featuring the violin virtuoso Emlyn Ngai as well as three other exceptional chamber musicians–played two 18th century pieces (by Beethoven and J.S. Bach) as well as 20th century compositions by Reinhold Gliere, Samuel Barber, and Philip Glass. Ranging from soothing, calming and undulating movements to a humorous duet and then to the passionate and poignant finale by Barber, the five selections managed to be a microcosm of the evolution of music from its baroque days to the masterful works by Philip Glass (who celebrates his 80th birthday this summer too).

The Carmel Bach Festival is held in a wide-ranging selection of venues throughout the town as well. Some concerts are held outside on the patio under the Clock Tower of the Carmel Sunset Center (the city’s performing arts center) while others are held in beautiful churches in the community (including the Church in the Forest in Pebble Beach) and the historic Carmel Mission. Candlelight concerts are particularly enthralling as the audience imagines a Mozart quintet or a baroque piece in its original lighting of the period.

And as an additional attraction for art lovers, there is an art auction raffle of miniatures by local artists as a fundraiser for the festival. This year’s theme is The Joy of Music to celebrate the cultural and musical vitality in our community. Plan to visit either this summer or next–the Carmel Bach Festival always is scheduled in the month of July.

Carmel Bach Festival Art Raffle

My “Jellyfish” print for Art Raffle

Enjoy!

Note: For tickets and more information call 624-1521 or visit www.bachfestival.org Remember, there are many free events at this festival, including music, lectures and special events. Whatever your budget, you can enjoy this marvelous event!