The Bridge (Bron/Broen), the international cult hit that helped kickstart the Nordic Noir trend, first aired in 2011. In the decade since it’s been viewed by millions of people in 188 countries and territories and become a touchstone for crime-obsessed audiences worldwide.
The series begins when a body is found on the Øresund Bridge, the conduit between Sweden and Denmark. The corpse lies across the border, so half of the body is in Sweden, and the other half is in Denmark. But as the investigation begins, things get more complicated: the body was actually half of one person and half another. The investigators realize that one portion was from a recently murdered politician and the other from a long-missing prostitute. As more crimes follow the initial atrocity, the narrative grows more complex and fascinating.
After the Scandinavian version became such a hit, other versions followed: one set between the UK and France (The Tunnel), one between the US and Mexico (The Bridge), as well as Germany / Austria (Der Pass),Russia / Estonia (MOCT/Sild) and Malaysia/Singapore (The Bridge).
The original series, available to screen now on Topic, is focused, intense, and reflects the cool landscape of Scandinavia. Whether you’ve watched the series already and are looking for interesting intel, or are curious about the cult hit, Behind the Bridge will deliver a birdseye view into the making of the series that are sure to whet your appetite.
Behind the Bridge is an exclusive documentary of how The Bridge was made, behind the scenes. Learn story development, set design, and more about how The Bridge came to be.
Check out the real-life bridge that inspired the show
The Øresund Bridge opened in 2000 and provides a connection between Denmark and Sweden for both cars and the train system. You can’t actually walk across the Øresund Bridge IRL, so filming for the show was only possible when the bridge was closed to traffic for maintenance. In the documentary, locations scouts talk about how they planned the shots and created scenes amidst the challenges of shooting on a public bridge.
The producers talk about how they wanted to create an ‘enhanced reality’ in order to create an unsettled feeling for the viewer. The crime that takes place in the series wasn’t based on any real crime, but the emotions that spiral outwards from the crime and affect the investigators are real emotions. To help create this enhanced reality, they purposefully created off-kilter characters and an unusual color palette. The bridge itself functions as a sort of character – the Øresund Bridge is not only a place on the series, but a focal point and an influence on all events.
The best views of the Bridge are from the Luftkastellet on Usiktsvagen Road in Sweden. There’s even a walkway by the shore where you can walk directly underneath the bridge for a wild view. The show utilizes tons of different angles from both countries to amplify the Øresund as a focal point of the narrative.
The series takes place in both Malmö and Copenhagen, but more of it was filmed in Malmö, in three parts of the city. The Limhamn district is where the Bridge itself begins, coming out of limestone hills and building out into the water. Saga Norén, the main character, lives in Vastra Hamnen. The fancy new neighborhood houses the Turning Torso, (no pun intended!) a skyscraper with unique architecture that is the tallest building in Scandinavia, and also the first twisted skyscraper in the world. This area is contrasted with the gritty Mollevangen neighborhood where the police station and much of the investigation take place.
The collaboration between the two countries to create the series underpins the entire production
“The making of the series involves a cross-border collaboration” Kim Bodnia, one of the stars, said. “We need to cover the differences and the things we have in common.” The public broadcasting networks of both Denmark and Sweden collaborated to make the series, and characters speak both Swedish and Danish. There was a huge emphasis during the making of the series on making sure that the influence of the two countries was balanced.
The police force in both countries helped advise on the content and eventually signed off on the production. They vouched for the similarities and differences in the police forces and gave pointers on how they go about an average day. They were consulted throughout the process to make sure that the characters were following regulations as the real police would and were said to have appreciated the level of detail in the plot and how it mimicked the daily routine of a police officer.
The show has been lauded for its main female character, Saga, who is strong, blunt, socially awkward, and, above all, an incredible investigator
The star of the series, Sofia Helin, has talked extensively about how she went about portraying a character with social challenges. “She’s normal enough to have a job, but at the same time her social competence is highly underdeveloped.” Saga and Martin, her detective counterpart from across the bridge, are the heart and soul of the series.
In the documentary, the producers say that they knew they needed an interesting female counterpart to Martin Rohde, but they weren’t sure where to start. Their first idea was simple, but ended up having a huge influence on the character of Saga: “a female detective with absolutely no social skills.” In the words of a crew member, Martin Bergenstrom: “She’s bloody awkward.”
In the documentary, Helin says: “I’ve never been so influenced by a show before, but it’s been good for me.” The character is blunt, has trouble understanding other characters’ humor, and doesn’t have many close relationships. She will change her clothes in front of other people in the office, and tell people awkward truths in social situations. “This is a man I have sex with sometimes,” she says as she introduces a man to her investigation partner. “No I don’t think your cooking was tasty,” she replies to a dinner host.
Helin employed her own form of method acting to get the character right. She practiced going out in public and toning down her natural friendly reactions to strangers and was shocked at how different her experiences felt. She tried to stop following social rules to see how people might react to her character.
Helin’s hard work paid off – women with Asperger’s syndrome have said that her character became a sort of role model because she is so skilled at her job despite her challenges, and the character’s popularity gave these women a newfound sense of acceptance. The actress has received fan mail thanking her for her portrayal of the character and was honored by the Swedish Asperger society.
Her male counterpart also had some interesting, off-kilter traits. Kim Bodnia, who plays the other detective, Martin Rohde, talks in the documentary about how it took him a little while to get on board with the idea of his character getting a vasectomy. He thought that it would be a turn-off for viewers, but when he saw some of his friends sitting in a pub after a production meeting, he thought, why not ask them what they think? His old friends loved the idea, and that got him on board.
Though Saga and Martin are very different characters, the result of their differences is extraordinary television: they are bound together and their chemistry keeps the viewer locked into the show.
Hear from cast and crew about how the scenes of the show came together
Above all, The Bridge is a series about how people interact with their society, and sometimes they are locked into their jobs and lifestyles, while others are locked out. The creators describe how they would go out in the cities at night, and observe the behavior of people walking around for inspiration. They would drive back and forth over the Øresund Bridge and got to thinking about how this iconic bridge, between two different nations, represented much more than just an architectural structure. They took pictures and notes to determine their visual lens for shooting the show.
Shots from the production room show the team hard at work to make the series happen. It’s amazing to realize just how many people go into the making of a show like The Bridge. From the focus puller to location scouts to the prop master to grips and runners, the documentary makes an effort to interview people from all over the production and shows you the diverse manpower (and womanpower!) behind an epic show like The Bridge.