Harry Hole is the central character in the crime series of novels by Norwegian author, Jo Nesbø. The appeal of this flawed detective is his stream of conscience investigative style that draws the reader along the trail to find the killer in each of the crime stories. His popularity has grown over the two decades of existence in Nesbø’s world of the frozen Scandinavian landscapes. It is no surprise that Hollywood sees the potential of another franchise led by Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans) as the legendary detective, but will audiences warm to this investigator from the tundra?
Through a stupor brought on by an alcoholic relapse, insomnia and difficulties caused by a failed relationship, Harry is made aware of the death of a young woman that sobers him up quickly. Detective Katrine Brett (Rebecca Ferguson) brings the case of this missing person to Hole’s attention and their investigation proves a serial killer is on the loose in Oslo. The work must remain secretive to find the assailant because the snow-bound community is trying to win the bid for a worldwide athletic event. As the duo gets closer to the needed clues, both discover more about the personal nature of this investigation and how it puts them and the people they love in danger.
The potential in this franchise is evident from the opening credits and as each character is introduced the excitement builds for this storyline. The combination of a stellar cast and Nesbø’s character-rich atmosphere against the starkly white background of Norway seem to afford possibilities, but nothing seems to be able to save this cinematic journey through the snow.
Director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) shows his ability to make the most of the Scandinavian landscape and manages to portray the pristine beauty of this area of the world. His use of the contrasts of the white of the snow and the dark side of human nature does show promise for the rest of the film, but unfortunately, this is where the accolades cease. Despite the strengths that Harry Hole’s realm offers, the style of writing and directing become a misuse of talent and the literary figures provided him. The writing becomes so disjointed it becomes more disturbing to experience than the actual ominous story elements. There are specific roles like Arve Støp (J. K. Simmons) and Investigator Svenson (Toby Jones) that are introduced but serve no purpose and prove that great actors can be underutilised on screen. Then to include the bizarre performance of Val Kilmer in this mix took this production from disjointed to embarrassing for the director and cast.
Fassbender and Ferguson do their best to salvage things through their acting prowess, but the writing and less than formidable serial killer cause all things to run straight into a snow bank without any hope of escape. The Snowman is an example of wasted potential, and despite the stellar cast, this was a film that should have been buried away deep in the hills of Norway for no one to see.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
What do I do with my fears? When engaging with films like The Snowman, the filmmakers capitalise on our deepest fears. Specifically of death and how this inevitably can happen at any time and seemingly in random ways.
To allow fear to rule life is to put faith in the ‘what could be’ of life, which can lead to a mental, emotional or physical paralysis for many. Fear means to focus on what may or may not happen, which even existed in people of the Bible. Moses, Gideon, Esther and more had to work through their fears.
The answer to this is to not focus on the ‘what could be’ of life but to look to the God of the universe for solace and strength. Jesus is the one who defeated death and offers freedom from fear through his life and words. The Apostle Paul writes of this when addressing the concern of a young disciple named Timothy. Read through these words and know that they answer where we should all put our fears.