In recent years, Netflix has gained a foothold in basically all corners of the world. As it becomes a global streaming service, Netflix is also starting to churn out local foreign language content that can grow a global audience. In recent weeks, that has happened with a show like the South Korean survival drama Squid Game, which has been compared to everything from The Hunger Games to Saw. But, of course, the most famous non-English language Netflix original series are Money Heist from Spain and Dark from Germany.
Netflix has also tried to find similar success in Denmark with the not-as-successful The Rain and Equinox, which, though they are still on the streamer, have seen their moments in the spotlight disappear, like tears in, ahem, rain. If it were up to me, though, the third Danish Netflix original series, The Chestnut Man (original title: Kastanjemanden), should find more success. It feels like the exact kind of binge-able ‘foreign language’ content that Netflix had hoped to pick up along the way.
Based on the Søren Sveistrup novel of the same name, The Chestnut Man follows homicide detective, Naia Thulin (played by Danica Curcic), and her new partne, Mark Hess (played by Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), as they investigate a series of brutal murders in Denmark. The duo eventually deduce that these murders may have been committed by the same person, when they notice that little men made of chestnuts have been left at the crime scenes. When they check the chestnut men for fingerprints, they start to suspect that the killer may have been involved in an old case involving the daughter of a famous politician.
As Netflix becomes a mainstay all around the world, it stands to reason that more and more international productions will pop up. As I just mentioned, in Denmark, we’ve seen three different Danish Netflix series thus far. While the first two shows were rooted in supernatural or dystopian themes, this third show feels like a safer bet. It is a ‘Nordic Noir’ crime thriller in the vein of Danish series such as The Killing (which, like The Chestnut Man, was also created by Søren Sveistrup) or the much maligned adaptation of the Norwegian novel The Snowman from Jo Nesbø.
However, unlike that American adaptation of that Norwegian crime novel, The Chestnut Man really packs a punch and lives up to its potential. It has the potential to be the new obsession for fans of Mindhunter, True Detective, Mare of Easttown, or The Outsider, and I think it will scratch that itch that crime thriller fiction fans may or may not need scratched this fall. Like Nordic Noir should, it looks and feels cold and dreary. On top of that, the subject matter is quite dark, and the murders in the show are staged in a horrifying and gruesome way. As the most entertaining murder mysteries do, it is engaging, gripping, and full of red herrings (though I suspect Scandinavians will see the ‘reveal’ coming earlier than other viewers will).
The worst thing I can say about the show is that some of its characters’ arcs are quite stereotypical. This can be frustrating for obvious reason, but I also think that may help people adjust to the show and overcome the language barrier. The acting is quite good, which helps. Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (A Royal Affair) and Danica Curcic lead the line with assured performances, and those familiar with more than just a small handful of Danish actors will notice that the cast is quite good for a Danish show.
Curiously, in the same week that Netflix released The Chestnut Man on their service, the streamer also decided to release the American remake of the Danish film The Guilty. This American remake stars Jake Gyllenhaal, so I’m sure it’ll be at the top of most Netflix subscribers’ lists. But if you like these kinds of crime thriller shows, then you owe it to yourself to give The Chestnut Man a chance this fall.
– Article/Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.