DVD Review: HELLFJORD Defines Uncanny

Hellfjord is an absurd and blackly comic Norwegian television show. It has inklings of Hot Fuzz and the strange isolation and more weirdos than Twin Peaks but ultimately, it is very much its own disturbing beast.

This is the story of urban police officer Salmander, a second generation Pakistani immigrant, who after accidentally killing his police horse in front of hundreds of children gets promptly dismissed. Due to a loophole in his civil service contract however, he must first serve out a 3-month notice period. His captain then banishes him to Hellfjord - a tiny fishing community in the far north of Norway that is populated by simple-minded people with an average age of 67.

On arrival, things just go from bad to worse for Salmander, he eventually scratches the surface, and discovers a secret that will turn Hellfjord upside down; maybe even inside out. 

Hellfjord made serious waves internationally when Fantastic Fest premiered it in its entirety. This was all the way back in 2012, and James Marsh was there to witness it. He describes it as thus in his review.

Beyond the basic city-cop-banished-to-small-rural-town premise, the details of the two properties (Hot Fuzz and Hellfjord) could not be more different, save for a delightfully off-kilter sense of humor and a love for their respective countries' small-town charms. In many ways, the tone of Hellfjord falls somewhere between Twin Peaks and The League of Gentleman, as it delights in creating weird backwoods characters, only to nurture a deep-seated affection for them that grows as the series progresses.

After viewing season one and upon reflection I do not have much to add. I was eager to get my hands on this series after reading about its premiere but without English subtitles I was out of luck. Fortunately Madman have come through with this no-frills DVD of the first season.

I am speechless in a strange way. Every episode plays like a hashed procedural but is inter-cut with truly bizarre moments that although completely off-putting are utterly hilarious, simply describing them would do the show an injustice. The character of Cobba, the town's Deputy is so uncanny and bizarre and practically etched into my memory. It is him, and low-life's of his caliber that make Salmander's interactions in the town ridiculous. James also comments on this.

Salmander is undeniably the straight man, lost and looking for redemption through suffering, but Henrikson's Kobba is a delightful comic creation, whether abusing his gorgeous if incomprehensible mail order Finnish wife (Pihla Viitala), or discussing magazine subscriptions in minute detail over the phone with tele-sales reps.

The town itself is filled with secrets and mystery, its run by a sinister sounding fishing operation and its few locales provide plenty of uncanny intrigue.

Hellfjord is a place where a mysterious sea serpent lurks in the dark waters feeding on sheep heads, and where the premiere nightspot, Kjells Kitchen, is a combination family restaurant-cum-strip club.

Both me and James agree that the series works best as a marathon run, some episodes are weaker than others but the laughs certainly do not stop. Occasionally there is a specific cultural reference that cannot be understood either, but this kind of adds to the already strange package that is Hellfjord. Twitch cannot wait for more seasons of this f*cked-up show!

Please note Madman's DVD release is available in Australia and New Zealand, it has no extras, nor needs them, the series is more than enough!

James Marsh contributed to this story.

Around the Internet:
  • ColinJ

    Ingrid Bolso Berdal is in it. That's enough to at least get me to check it out.

  • Mike

    Was there ever any kind of American release for this?

  • No. I know of at least one distributor who tried, but there was a music rights issue. Showtime is backing a US version of it, though.

  • Jedi4life2003

    Amazing show

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