[Movie] The Chestnut Man review – Nordic Noir at its gripping best

This review of The Chestnut Man is spoiler-free.

The bleak beauty and macabre appeal of Nordic Noir is nothing new for long-time crime drama fans, so the arrival of another new thriller is always something of a big deal among the right crowd. The Chestnut Man, a six-episode Danish offering adapted from the novel by Søren Sveistrup by the author himself alongside Dorte W. Høgh, seems finely calibrated for just that crowd. It’s a grim affair, a story of missing arms and dead bodies and ominous children’s figurines, but it’s rich with character, beauty, and depth; an entry into the subgenre that is as well-paced and engaging as any other you can think of.

[Movie] The Chestnut Man

[Movie] The Chestnut Man

It’s also somewhat brighter, though only on an aesthetic level. Fall in Denmark makes for a less chilly color palate than usual, giving the show a visual style of its own. The splashes of blood, though, of which there are plenty, are no less pronounced. The bodies that adorn the pretty landscape are no less horrifying. And the wounded characters who shuffle their way through the pacey serial killer plot make for excellent guides.

Those characters, or at least the actors who play them, will be familiar to anyone who consumed previous Danish Netflix productions like The Rain and Equinox. Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) is a frazzled homicide cop and single mother who is teamed up with an enigmatic new partner, Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følgaard), who has been reluctantly reassigned from Interpol, to investigate the murder of a woman whose body was discovered in a children’s playground with a missing hand and a chestnut man – children’s figurines built from chestnuts and matchsticks or twigs to resemble people – nearby. It becomes quickly apparent that his case may have a connection to one from a year prior when the daughter of parliamentary minister Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner) was brutally murdered. That case has ostensibly been solved, but you know how these things go.

Sveistrup is no stranger to television, being credited with The Killing – as well as co-credited for the script of The Snowman, which is probably best not to think too much about – and directors Kasper Barfoed and Mikkel Serup are old hands. The confidence of experience is felt in both the writing and the direction. You know you’re in good hands from a taut opening scene in the first episode and you remain so all the way through. At just six episodes, The Chestnut Man is an irresistible binge-watch proposition.

You can stream The Chestnut Man exclusively on Netflix.

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