4 March 2015 | ritzhorvath
Scandinavian noir with a French accent
Scandi-noir brings with it a set of expectations which Witnesses duly delivers. Female cop with suppressed issues -- check; a wintry French coastal village dominated by Broadchurch style cliffs -- check; improbable crime scenes that darkly hint at a miscreant with a messed up mind -- check, and the usual cool colour palette of blues and greys -- check.
Genre conventions are not a bad thing, if used deftly, and Witnesses delivers. Marie Dompnier as the female lead investigator, Sandra Winckler, is impressive as the astute cop who exorcises her insomniac nights by obsessively cleaning her apartment. Thierry Lhermitte plays the former high-flying policeman haunted by family tragedy, and as Winkler's former instructor who is implicated in the bizarre crime, suppresses dark secrets about his past. The location shooting in Le Tréport, with its strange funicular railway which is used as a disturbing feature in the first episode, is inspired, and the photography is superb.
This review is based on viewing the introductory episode, which sometimes tends to be dramatically the most engaging with television mini-series, such as The Bridge and its British-French counterpart, The Tunnel, but marred in subsequent weeks by a lurid story trajectory. Hopefully Witnesses will exhibit a narrative restraint where trust is placed in mood and character development without forsaking the sense of unease that is so well established in the opening hour.