Filmed in Finland: Nordic noir shows regular people in irregular circumstances

The term Nordic noir describes Nordic crime fiction in literature and on television. The genre typically includes attributes such as realistic crimes, strong women and rainy November weather. We hear from a producer about what makes it special.

In recent years, Finnish films and series have captivated international audiences.

For example, the crime series Deadwind with Pihla Viitala as the leading star and Bullets starring Krista Kosonen have attracted attention on TV. Bordertown was one of the first Finnish Nordic noir series.

Entangled in crime

Watch the season two trailer for Arctic Circle, in which a Finnish police officer investigates an ominously secretive international hunting club in Russia and also reopens the unsolved case of a brutally murdered Olympic judo star in Finland.

“Even if the Nordic genre of socially topical crime novels was born back in the 1960s, the name Nordic noir is only about ten years old,” says showrunner Miikko Oikkonen, the creator of Bordertown, an internationally popular TV series from Finland. “When we started making Bordertown in 2010, the term was not yet in use. The popularity of the books has shown that people keep finding Nordic noir interesting.”

Typically, Nordic noir deals with regular middle-class people who become entangled in crime by unusual circumstances.

Seeing people as they are

Watch the season two trailer for All the Sins, a series set in northern Finland in 1999 that includes murders, technological developments, and a conservative religious subculture.

“When we make Nordic noir, we have to dare to see people as they are,” Oikkonen says. “Everyone has a dark side, and we try to understand why people commit crime. The characters are easy to relate to and the viewers grow very close to them.”

The narration style is much slower than that of many TV productions.

“We have long takes showing an aerial view of a city landscape or countryside,” says Oikkonen. “It’s important to show how much space and unspoilt nature we have around us.”

Everyone has a noir side

Three women and a man, all wearing black T-shirts, are standing with their backs to each other, staring into the distance.

Bordertown is available on Netflix in 180 countries. Photo: Fisher King Ltd

A woman wearing a military jacket watches something outside the frame of the photo, with a stressed look on her face.

Krista Kosonen in the series Bullets. Photo: Vertigo

A man and a woman stand by a car in front of a dark forest.

Lauri Tilkanen (left) and Pihla Viitala play detectives in the series Deadwind. Photo: Dionysos Films

A woman stands in a field where there are several dead cows.

Sanna Tervo in All the Sins. Photo: Hannele Majaniemi/Matila Röhr Productions

A woman and a man wearing winter hats are peering over the edge of a snowdrift.

Iina Kuustonen (left) and Janne Kataja are northern Finnish police officers in Arctic Circle. Photo: Yellow Film

By Päivi Brink, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2023