Tobias Lindholm Reinvents the True Crime Genre With The Investigation

Writer, director, and executive producer Tobias Lindholm discusses the idea of a new genre he calls “true investigation,” based on the idea of telling a story not about a crime, but about the people who work to solve one.

When Oscar-nominated filmmaker Tobias Lindholm set out to write a series focused on the complex real-life investigation surrounding the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, he took a bold approach.

Lindholm was not interested in the killer — his name is never mentioned on-screen and was only referred to as “the perpetrator” during filming — and he shunned the usual tropes associated with genre thrillers, including flashback scenes showing the crime.

Instead, The Investigation is a painstaking recreation of lead detective Jens Møller and his remarkable team’s dogged determination to bring justice for Wall's parents, Ingrid and Joachim Wall, and the deep bond that is forged between them.

Wall was an acclaimed journalist who, on August 10, 2017, went to interview the perpetrator on board his submarine in Køge Bay, an expanse of sea to the south of Copenhagen. The submarine was reported missing on August 11, leading to the arrest of the perpetrator and an intensive search of Køge Bay, led by divers from the Royal Danish Navy, for Wall's body. The case attracted huge publicity in Denmark, where it became known as the Submarine Case, and internationally.

Lindholm wrote the series after initially meeting Møller, head of homicide for Copenhagen Police, and, later, Ingrid and Joachim. “The logic was, ‘Let’s just see this from Jens’ perspective. When does he hear about this for the first time?’ And that led me on to trying to analyze what the genre dictates.

“And a new genre has arrived in the last 10 years, which has been given the fascinating name 'true crime' and I realized that true crime in its nature is, of course, obsessed with the crime: It’s ‘true crime.’

“So I thought to myself, ‘What if we invented a new genre called ‘true investigation’? Where we don’t really talk so much about the crime, but we talk about the investigation, and we go into what that is.

“And when I met Ingrid and Joachim, they talked about their collaboration with Jens and what he had done for them, the way that they praised him and how thankful they were for the humanity he showed in the process and how they believed that really saved them and saved their sanity.

“And it was very much in line with the story that they tried to tell every time they did interviews with the press and in their own book, A Silenced Voice, about Kim’s life — they tried to change the perspective and find the light in it all.”

Whereas a “traditional” crime series might have portrayed the leading detective as a haunted soul who is tortured by his own personal problems, Lindholm was determined to show Møller and his colleagues as they really are: dedicated, hard-working, and committed men and women who pay a price for simply doing their jobs.

“Jens is one of the easiest, nicest people I’ve ever met,” he says. “And a lot of Nordic-noir crime stories overall tell stories about detectives with some sort of problem. Either they are an alcoholic or they have some sort of psychological problem, and in this case, Jens is just a guy who understood the world based on facts. He doesn’t assume stuff; he believes in facts and he doesn’t speak if he doesn’t know what he is speaking about.”

The Investigation stars two of Lindholm’s regular collaborators in key roles: Søren Malling plays Møller, and Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones) is prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen. Pernilla August (Star Wars) and Rolf Lassgård are Ingrid and Joachim, respectively.

Lindholm and his production team went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the authenticity of their project, including using the real divers who were involved in the search for Wall’s body and the same ship that raised the sunken submarine.

“I don’t think that my producers, line producers, or anybody in the production department on this show enjoyed my obsession with reality because it makes it difficult,” says Lindholm.

“But I knew that if we wanted to portray the rising of the submarine, we would have to do it precisely, so we needed the real ship to do that. It would look wrong if we used another one.

“And we would send the audience the wrong direction. It’s like when your foot hurts and you start to limp a little to the left without even knowing it. I felt we needed to be as precise and as accurate as possible to stay on track.”

Lindholm wrote, directed, and executive-produced The Investigation. He was born in Næstved and studied at the National Film School of Denmark. As a writer, he was part of the team on the prestigious Danish political drama Borgen, where he worked with both Malling and Asbæk, who both had roles in the show.

As a writer, he has frequently collaborated with his friend and fellow Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg on films including Submarino, The Hunt, The Commune, and Another Round. As a writer/director, his films include R, A Hijacking, and A War, the latter of which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 2016.

Find out more about The Investigation here.