The Chestnut Man: A Danish series of grisly murders

Dubai - In the Danish show, a series of grisly murders get connected to an almost unbelievable matrix of a missing/murdered child


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2021, 5:19 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Nov 2021, 7:07 PM

Most times, what you see is not what you get. That’s what happens with most of The Chestnut Man (originally titled Kastanjemanden), a Danish limited series, set in Copenhagen and its surrounding areas, that takes forward the overriding popularity that Nordic noir — with its skin-in-the-game acting chops — has gained in recent times.

Right off the bat, we are introduced to Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner), the Danish minister of social affairs, who’s rejoining office after a hiatus following the disappearance of her 12-year-old daughter Kristine. It is presumed Kristine is dead; someone called Linus Bekker (Elliott Crosset Hove) has confessed to killing the girl (her body was never found) and he’s locked up in solitary confinement, apparently having lost his mind. Rosa is married to Steen (Esben Dalsgaard Anderssen), who doesn’t appear to have a day job, and they live with their son Gustav.

Rosa’s return to parliament coincides with the murder of a woman, a single mother, and the two cops given the case to handle are Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) — also a single mother to a young daughter — and a reluctant Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), who’s on some kind of ‘punishment posting’ to Copenhagen. There’s odd prop at the murder scene. A chestnut man, put together amateurishly, almost like it has been assembled by a kid.

When another murder — again, of a woman with two kids, seemingly trapped in a bad marriage — fetches up alongside more ‘chestnut men’, Naia and the reticent Mark decide to put aside their differences and work as a team, along with forensics expert Simon Genz (David Dencik), a good friend of Naia’s.

Things fire up when it is discovered that the chestnut men found at both crime scenes have Rosa’s murdered/missing daughter’s fingerprints: there now seems to be a slender chance that Kristine, Rosa’s daughter, may, in fact, be alive. There’s a clear link between the killings of these (unrelated) women, who are, in the course of the investigation, shown up to be “bad mothers” — with complaints having been filed against them.

Once you make your peace with the oft-flogged story of someone who is punishing women because of a mother complex (it’s quite the reverse sweep from Psycho, and you’ll know what I mean if and when you watch The Chestnut Man), the series is eminently bingeable. There’s also an underlying sense of an overwhelming grey: the good guys here blink out cues that make them out to be like chameleons in straitjackets. Naia, for instance, is constantly gaslighted into believing she’s a bad mother. Or maybe she believes she’s being gaslighted — because there may something more to her than meets the eye. Mark, with his mysterious past, is clearly not what he seems to be: is his razor-sharp brain a camouflage to something murkier?

Which is why I found the finale a bit of a letdown — not the tonality, but the circumstances — that purports to very ‘popular’ notions of “endings”. This is possibly the only area where this series flags: it doesn’t somehow measure up to the despairingly breathtaking buildup.

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