Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The look of Crimes of Passion, episodes 1 and 2

Christer, Dina, Puck and Einar (episode 2, 'King Lily of the Valley') in their wedding reception outfits
Crimes of Passion is a midcentury-set Swedish crime drama currently being broadcast on BBC4. I've seen it described as 'Midcentury Midsomer Murders', which is a bit harsh – Midsomer Murders really is the low point for me as far as crime dramas go; I love the cheesiness of things like Quincy and Diagnosis Murder but Midsomer Murders is just dire. For me, Crimes of Passion is more akin to Agatha Christie stories, which is appropriate as the books were originally published in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, though there's a bit of spice in the form of the Einar-Puck-Christer triangle. (Einar and Puck are in love, but you just know Puck and Einar's pal Christer fancy the pants off each other.)

Christer's mum's house - classic Scandinavian midcentury
The first thing that struck me is how very unaccustomed to Scandinavian midcentury stuff I am. Watching Agatha Christie adaptations, I have another time to get to grips with. Watching Wallander, it's another place. Watching Crimes of Passion there's both another time and another place delivering little mental jabs, and I often found myself wondering if stylish things that struck me were normal for Sweden then and now, normal then, or brought in by the programme makers. The very icy colour palette in episode 2, 'King Lily of the Valley' makes me think the designers paid a lot of attention to using a palette to create a dreamy, remote feel.
Christer's mother shows Puck and Einar to their rooms. The clothes are what they wore to a wedding.
Before we get started on the clothes, I would like to say the interiors in this programme are absolutely gorgeous. Scandinavia was, of course, a design powerhouse in the mid-20th century, and all through the show you see gorgeous furniture. It's not in every location. Christer's police station, for example, looks very old-fashioned, and characters with less money have less up-to-the-minute homes. The beach house in the first episode, 'Death of a Loved One' is a blend of old and new and bohemian. Christer's arty mother, however, has a gorgeous home, from the sleek wooden-framed furniture in the living room to the open, geometric ironwork banister on the stairs.
Floral crowns for a midsummer beach party, and flamboyant Lil kicks off the dancing
The first episode was set at a somewhat bohemian party in a beach house. There were a lot of really charming cotton dresses to be seen, full-skirted things with colourful prints. They were often topped off with cardigans. It's a look that's stereotypically 1950s, but also very popular as a silhouette nowadays. I think the prints on the dresses really helps with the authentic feel; if you go to any large event you'll find that what really sets the authentic vintage or very good repro apart are the prints. Many of them simply aren't made any more. The costume designer did a really good job of not making things too fancy.
Marianne and Viveka, flirty and sporty
Also, the characters wore things you could imagine them picking: a flamboyant striped halterneck for the glamorous Lil, something deceptively sweet with plenty of racy scarlet for Marianne, and a more practical option for Marianne's friend Viveka.
Dina and Anneli
There was a similar pattern in the second episode. Dina, who was 'all grown up' - much to Christer's initial surprise - and had been to finishing school, was every inch the glamourpuss, while her tragic friend Anneli was all in angelic white.
Dina's outfit for the wedding. By far my favourite dress in both programmes
The wedding and the funeral in episode two do provide more opportunities for flamboyant clothing. The wedding was a white tie affair, and all the female guests were in floor-length frocks. I mentioned the icy colour palette in that episode, and you can see it in the long dresses on Christer's mother (seafoam) and Puck (turquoise) in my third image, and in Dina's incredible duck-egg-blue bombshell gown. It's really noticeable in the scenes in the church. I don't know if long dresses are still the done thing at regular Swedish weddings, but the Royal Family still goes all out. Order of Splendor did a fantastic breakdown of guests at Crown Princess Victoria's wedding back in 2010, and it was a proper, all-out gowns-and-tiaras affair.

Because the colours are limited at a funeral, that scene really gives you a chance to concentrate on cut. Everyone is in black, and every lady has her skirt bang on the knee, mostly with smart jackets, though Puck has a black embellished cardigan. Low shoes and square midcentury bags are definitely the order of the day.

Funeral wear. Very black, very smart.
Puck, Christer and Einar are the only three characters in both episodes. Puck is aptly named. She has an impish quality. She often wears trousers, a mark of her unconventional, practical nature, I suppose. Christer looks like he strolled out of a film noir, but then men's fashion changes less radically than women's, policemen aren't generally supposed to be high-fashion anyway, and I am not adept at following the shifts in the cut of lapel or tie. Whether his garb is period-appropriate or not, whatever Christer is wearing, he wears it well. Einar, on the other hand, seems to not wear things well. Usually spotted in casualwear unless the occasion demands it, there's also a good chance of seeing him shirtless. In a way you can read Puck's dilemma in their clothes: there's the boyish, playful innocence of Einar, who it is appropriate to see half-clad, and then the smouldering manliness of Christer, who has to be kept safely buttoned up.

Crimes of Passion is a stylish programme. After the first episode I wasn't sure if I liked it, but it's definitely growing on me, and I look forward to the third one!


  1. I wasn't sure if I liked the first one either, haven't seen the second one yet, am hoping it's still on catchup. The costumes and locations in the first one were lovely, but I didn't really feel warmth to any of the characters. Maybe it's a subtitles thing creating a barrier. Loved seeing these peeks from the second episode, thanks for sharing! P x

    1. They only stay on catchup until the following one is broadcast. It's very annoying!

  2. I'd forgotten all about that, and I meant to have a squizz. I'm not keen on that style of furniture, it's too modern for me, I prefer much older stuff, but I do like me some pretty frocks!
    It looks very stylishly done.

    1. Midcentury stuff is growing on me. It has the cleanness of line and emphasis on functionality that you get from later art deco. Plus I hate housework and the simpler stuff is easier to clean...

      The frocks are really pretty. I keep wondering if Sweden is some unexplored treasurehouse of vintage and there's loads of it kicking around there!

  3. Have just looked on catch up before reading this and annoyingly episode one has gone. I am so bad at catching up! It is a shame as it sounds really interesting and the costumes are gorgeous.

    1. Yes, for some reason they're only up until the next one is broadcast. I came a cropper with that with my screencaptures as I left it too late to get good ones of Ep 1.