Don’t ex­pect more Nordic Noir from Dicte, the Scandi drama fea­tur­ing a fear­less re­porter chas­ing sto­ries, track­ing killers and try­ing to find her lost son. Crime Scene dis­cusses the Dan­ish ex­port with the star and cre­ators.


Nordic Noir with a twist.

Just be­cause it’s Nordic, it doesn’t have to be Noir. That’s the les­son to take from the hit Dan­ish series Dicte – Crime Re­porter, fea­tur­ing a rule-break­ing fe­male re­porter who mus­cles in on po­lice cases, much to the cha­grin of the lead de­tec­tive. Amid the in­ves­ti­ga­tions there are fam­ily crises, com­i­cal mo­ments and a strong sense of sis­ter­hood be­tween the re­cently di­vorced Dicte Svend­sen (Iben Hje­jle) and her fe­male friends.

Dicte, which has a sec­ond series air­ing in the UK, may well be the an­ti­dote to the bleak Nordic Noir of the Copen­hagen-based The Killing. It’s even set in a dif­fer­ent part of the coun­try – Aarhus, the sec­ond-largest city, lo­cated on the east coast of the Jut­land penin­sula. So if you need a break from re­lent­lessly moody Scan­di­na­vian TV drama, Dicte is the show for you.

“It’s a bit lighter, isn’t it?” sug­gests Hje­jle (pro­nounced “yigh-luh”), who’s pre­vi­ously starred in Dan­ish TV com­edy. “It has crime but it’s re­la­tion­ship drama built on chil­dren, par­ents, mar­riage, re­la­tion­ships at work and all of that. So it’s a bit lighter than all of the Scandi Noir.”

Ten years on from the launch of For­bry­delsen – screened as The Killing in the UK from 2011 – the suc­cess of Dicte sug­gests that Nordic Noir might have peaked. Does Hje­jle think view­ers want some­thing more colour­ful? “Yes, I think they’re ready to move on. With Dicte it’s an in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of hav­ing the crime el­e­ment along­side that fam­ily drama, so you can sit back and have a laugh and not be ter­ri­fied.”

For British view­ers, the in­tro­duc­tion to the go-get­ting re­porter in the first series last year cer­tainly had its com­i­cal mo­ments – in fact, you might say Dicte was tak­ing the piss. In the open­ing episode, the re­porter dis­cov­ers a dead body while she’s hav­ing a dis­creet wee on a se­cluded street at night, pre­sum­ably the first case of a jour­nal­ist

uri­nat­ing over a crime scene.

“We have to thank the writ­ers for that,” laughs Hje­jle. “We gave it a lot of thought – how is this go­ing to go down with the main char­ac­ter ac­ci­den­tally pee­ing on some­one’s dead body? But it suits me re­ally well as an ac­tor hav­ing great big emo­tions, but then at the same time you can laugh be­cause stupid things hap­pen. That ap­peals to me.”

Chas­ing the story

It’s per­haps telling that the show’s cre­ators, Dorte W. Hogh and Ida Maria Ry­den, didn’t write crime be­fore Dicte, which is based on the nov­els by Else­beth Egholm. “We were both di­vorced and we needed the money,” jokes Hogh when Crime Scene raises the sub­ject of their switch from non-genre drama to a ma­jor Dan­ish show fea­tur­ing a jour­nal­ist track­ing down mur­der­ers.

Dicte’s own mar­riage break-up is ac­tu­ally key to the set-up. She’s taken her teenage daugh­ter and moved away from Copen­hagen, back to where she grew up in Aarhus. But while Dicte gets to spend more time with her child­hood friends, she re­mains a driven jour­nal­ist who can’t help get­ting in trou­ble, which is all part of the show’s ap­peal.

“She’s a lit­tle over­whelm­ing and a lit­tle too en­er­getic,” says Hogh. “But I think peo­ple ac­tu­ally like that. She’s got a tem­per, and peo­ple can prob­a­bly re­late to her in the sense that she’s not per­fect. She gets in­volved with peo­ple and wants to save the whole world – and that’s ac­tu­ally some­thing we take fur­ther in Sea­son 3.”

Dicte is one of those re­porters who rel­ishes get­ting in the thick of the ac­tion. She might even sub­scribe to that in­fa­mous edict from the glory days of Fleet Street: “If it bleeds, it leads”. This old-fash­ioned jour­nal­ist pushes for tra­di­tional news val­ues de­spite her editor’s at­tempts to en­cour­age on­line click­bait.

“That’s go­ing to be an is­sue as well in the sec­ond and third sea­son – the whole in­ter­net news thing,” Hje­jle tells Crime Scene. “Now it’s all about vi­ral videos, it’s al­most like peo­ple make their own news. But, of course, jour­nal­ists can still be he­roes – and Dicte is very much about in­jus­tice. Some­times jour­nal­ists can put things straight, which is won­der­ful. We should still fight for the peo­ple’s right to have sto­ries re­ported by jour­nal­ists.”

How­ever, Dicte does bend the rules from the off, when she fails to in­form the lead de­tec­tive John Wag­ner (Lars Bryg­mann) that she’s a re­porter, fol­low­ing her dis­cov­ery of a dead Bos­nian girl who’s re­cently had a baby by cae­sarean sec­tion. The pair soon clash over her in­tru­sive re­port­ing style. But Wag­ner also re­alises that jour­nal­is­tic sub­terfuge can some­times come in handy.

Phys­i­cal de­mands

“They never re­ally get along very well,” Hogh ad­mits. “In Sea­son 2 they don’t ar­gue as much as they do in Sea­son 1. But they still do ev­ery­thing dif­fer­ently – they have dif­fer­ent takes on ev­ery­thing and dif­fer­ent opin­ions.”

This un­likely crime-fight­ing duo soon join forces on cases that are at times har­row­ing and gen­uinely threat­en­ing. Even within the first few episodes, Dicte is punched in the face by a pimp, re­ceives a blow to the head when she tries to pre­vent a girl from east­ern Europe get­ting ab­ducted, and is de­lib­er­ately run off the road with her teenage daugh­ter, Rose (Em­i­lie Kruse).

“It’s been very tough,” ad­mits Hje­jle. “I’ve al­ways been very proud of be­ing that sort of ac­tress who does all of her own

They never re­ally get along. They have dif­fer­ent takes on ev­ery­thing

stunts. But this time I told the stunt co­or­di­na­tor we’re go­ing to have to find a dou­ble, we’re go­ing to have to find some­one to take some of these beat­ings, be­cause I’m not go­ing to be able to do it.”

The role was still phys­i­cal enough for Hje­jle to be “black and blue for days” af­ter cer­tain scenes. But at least the stunt dou­ble freed up the lead­ing lady to fo­cus on the char­ac­ter’s emo­tional side. There are highs and lows for Dicte, for whom par­ent­hood and a pro­fes­sional call­ing can’t com­pen­sate for the loss she feels for the baby she gave up for adop­tion when she was a teenager. Twenty-four years later, she’s still search­ing for her son.

Dicte’s pain is com­pounded by the break­down in her re­la­tion­ship with her par­ents, be­cause she re­jected their faith as Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses. “She is ob­sessed with the truth and jus­tice, be­cause she’s been lied to so much and she was forced to give away her baby son just af­ter he was born,” ex­plains Hje­jle. “So she’s a very emo­tional person and she’s very driven by her own trau­mas.”

The first sea­son re­flects Dicte’s per­sonal sense of loss with crimes in­volv­ing chil­dren, though there’s a shift in tone for the sec­ond. “There are not as many dead chil­dren in Series 2,” con­firms a dead­pan Ry­den. The cases have been broad­ened to in­clude di­a­mond smug­gling, voodoo and match-fix­ing, as well as a hit-and-run that’s close to home for Dicte.

In this sec­ond series, the re­porter is on typ­i­cally forth­right form – she even jumps (fully clothed) into a hot tub to quiz a sleazy busi­ness­man. Mean­while, an in­creas­ingly lonely Wag­ner is drawn to an English-speak­ing im­mi­grant, Grace Tolou Aboka (Tanya Moodie), who’s con­nected to a case. Eagle-eyed view­ers will recog­nise Moodie from Sher­lock, in which she plays the ther­a­pist to both Wat­son and Holmes, as well as episodes of Lewis, Prime Sus­pect and Silent Wit­ness.

It feels like ap­pro­pri­ate cast­ing for a Dan­ish crime series that’s ac­tu­ally closer in style to the win­ning mix of hu­mour and high drama em­ployed in much British crime TV. Hje­jle is par­tic­u­larly happy that Dicte has reached an au­di­ence in Bri­tain, where it airs on More4 and is avail­able on-de­mand at Walter Presents.

British touch

“I grew up with all the English crime series, ev­ery­thing from Miss Marple and Poirot to Mid­somer Mur­ders, A Touch Of Frost and Tag­gart,” she re­veals. “We’re just brought up with it, so I think that’s why Dicte has ap­pealed to the English view­ers, be­cause it has those sort of recog­nis­able fea­tures and at the same time it has that Scandi feel­ing as well. I think it’s a good com­bi­na­tion be­cause it works very well.”

As with The Killing, though, the writ­ers have de­cided to go out on a high by call­ing time on Dicte af­ter three sea­sons. So per­haps its lead­ing lady can fol­low Sofie Grabol (Sarah Lund in The Killing) with ma­jor English-lan­guage roles – al­though it’s worth point­ing out that Hje­jle has pre­vi­ously ap­peared in High Fi­delity and along­side Daniel Craig in De­fi­ance.

“It’s been hard work for five-and-a-half years, so now I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what’s out there,” she says of life af­ter Dicte. “You know, I might come over to Bri­tain and have a meet­ing with my agent there, and say ‘I’m back’. I’d love to do fea­ture films, that would be won­der­ful.”

Dicte – Crime Re­porter Series 1 is avail­able on DVD. Series 2 is on More4 and wal­ter­p­re­sents.com in May.

It might not be your usual Nordic Noir, but there’s plenty of drama in Dicte. Wag­ner with his cop part­ner Linda Bendt­sen (Ditte Ylva Olsen).

Dicte’s fe­male friends are a sig­nif­i­cant part of her life.

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