Put into perspective, the rise of Scandinavian crime dramas is still quite new compared to other media trends. However, their impact has left a big impression on other studio’s following in their footsteps by adding darker themes into film and TV. And although The Snowman is the first Scandinavian crime drama I’ve seen, I am no stranger to director Tomas Alfredson who’s 2008 film Let the Right One In is quite the example of crafting silent suspense. His work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is also exemplary, so upon seeing The Snowman, there was a degree of interest. However, to be brutally honest, from a director that has created thrilling moments in his other work, The Snowman is quite mellow.
Thrilling moments are derived from a story that is gripping, has characters to root for and a satisfactory pay off. These can only be accomplished when your film leaves a good impression before the title shows. The Snowman’s introducing scene sets the bar for the rest of the film as everything seems out-of-place and scrambled, all the clues are there and yes, they should be presented in different places of the narrative to enhance the pay off when the killer is revealed, however there are so many clues or narrative point where their importance isn’t stretched out to the entirety of the film. There is a segment involving a bid for the winter sports world cup that is so confusing, audiences will be left wonder how many segments like this have anything to do with the central story of finding the killer.
The characters in the story are somewhat likeable, but they don’t contain anything that yells at me to root for them, even if the film has Michael Fassbender as the drunk, failing father Harry Hole. Fassbender is one of the most versatile actors working today, something about him can fit a myriad of roles, but that just it. He can fit every role, but the actual undertaking of that role is a whole different story itself. I won’t deny that his performance is OK at best, but that fact you have a very talented and well-known actor playing you’re leading role doesn’t make the audience root for him at the snap of a finger.
From the moment before the title showed up, I had a gut feeling that the people around me were in for a bumpy ride. The actual film-making that went into the first scene was questionable. I’m not quite sure if it was the use of different cameras or an inconsistency with the colour correction but somehow the scene didn’t look right. The different colours present seemed brighter in one shot that the other. While these inconsistencies can be missed by some audiences, the eagle-eyed amongst us will feel taken out of the story and instead focus on how the execution of the scene is partially disrupted by these film-making errors.
Despite the colour tone inconsistency however, the greyish colouring really puts you in the city of Oslo. It makes you feel cold just watching it, I appreciate when a film can have that effect on you as you are more connected to the film itself.
Credit where credit is due though, they have made the material it came from sound much more interesting to people like me who aren’t the most up to date on Scandinavian crime dramas. The Snowman is the seventh book in Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series (that brings up the question of why not adapt the first novel?), and has a cool concept for a serial killer and it makes me wonder what other mysteries the character of Harry Hole has solved before.
The location of Norway is breathtaking and the fact that the film is constantly snowy in the background create a lot of potential to do things with it that thrills the audience even more, but that all the film is, wasted potential. You have an interesting calling card for the killer in the making of snowmen, you have the beautiful background of the snowy mountainous views of Norway and Oslo, however it is as if these elements are a cloth that covers the many problems this film has.
In the end I was very saddened by Tomas Alfredson and his work on The Snowman and I couldn’t believe that the director who made this also made one of the most thrilling films I’ve seen (Let the Right One In). The Snowman is a big narrative mess with a story too convoluted and too complex that it’s difficult to pinpoint which part are relevant to the mystery or which parts are pointless exposition. I honestly feel that the critical response would have been more positive if The Snowman has followed in the footsteps of most Scandinavian crime dramas and been made into a TV series, that way we get to know the characters a lot better and the mystery becomes more mysterious. Until that day, we’re stuck with a thriller which has only dressed itself as a Scandinavian crime drama.
Final Result: 2/10 – Very Poor
Have you seen The Snowman? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Murder on the Orient Express