Saturday, 8 February 2014

Salamander - BBC Four - TV review

Salamander began on BBC Four tonight, with two episodes out of twelve. It's a Belgian thriller series, and although I don't share the widespread enthusiasm of the moment for telly with sub-titles, I must say that I really enjoyed this one. Sub-titles seem irritating to me, but if the story is good enough, they don't bother me too much, and Salamander is certainly a gripping story.

It begins with a heist at a private and evidently exclusive bank in Brussels. A gang enter a vault via a convenient tunnel, and target 66 safe deposits which have conveniently been marked up for them by an insider. When the robbery is discovered, the people in charge of the bank don't call the police. Instead, they set about hushing up the raid. What on earth is going on?

Paul Gerardi, your archetypal honest, maverick loner cop, is soon drawn into the mystery. He receives a tip-off about the raid, and witnesses the killing of someone with inside information. Again, this crime is hushed up. It's plain that important people in Belgian society are implicated, and before long Gerardi is suspended, and goes on the run whilst trying to figure out what is happening.

The second best fictional detective of all time was Belgian, and even if Gerardi isnt't in the Poirot league, Salamander reminded me of how much I like Belgium, a country I've visited three times over the years. The second episode was as good as the first,and I'm looking forward to next week's instalment. I remain sceptical about long TV crime series,and unattracted by sub-titles. But Salamander has made a very good start..


Anonymous said...

I am a Flemish UK resident & just wanted to let you know that thanks to these "annoying" subtitles, which we grew up with, many of us learnt English ... or American, or French - as all foreign tv series in Flanders are shown in original version with subtitles.

Anonymous said...

'...and unattracted by sub-titles.'

But is it really such a big deal that we have to follow the series via subtitles?

Hardly so, I think. If anything, if we want to break the monotony of the Anglo-sphere (American-sphere more like it at least in world entertainment) by having to follow a plot in the acoustics of a non-English language, makes it "kinda" of interesting.

Martin Edwards said...

Interesting discussion points, thanks, anons. I like the idea of learning via sub-titles, though it rather depends on the quality of the sub-titles. It's bound to be a personal view, but for me, sub-titles do get in the way of the visual impact of a film or tv show, and that's a pity. I know that dubbing is often done badly, and is out of fashion, but done well, I think it can preserve the integrity of the visual experience more effectively.

Anonymous said...

it just makes you aware that there are other languages besides English

Anonymous said...

I have found I enjoy subtitled programmes more. The reason was revealed when my wife complained she could not do the ironing whilst watching the original 'Killing'.

You can't coast along, you have to sit and stare hard at the screen for 120 minutes. It makes the whole thing more intense, you get drawn in more and paradoxically you get EVERY word spoken.

So no diversions, no mind wandering, just the full on experience a director would die for. It makes decent programmes appear good, good programmes brilliant and brilliant programmes unforgettable.

Anonymous said...

I am Italian and I wish we could watch film with subtitles. Even though sometimes we lose the visual impact it is much more rewarding to listen to the original actors voices, no matter of the language. The problem with dubbing is that all characters end up sounding the same, regardless of nationalities, locations and dramatic situations. I'd rather listen to Sean Connery say: My name is Bond, and read the subtitles, than listen to it dubbed in Italian,with the same voice that maybe in some other film was dubbing John Wayne.It is also a good way of learning English.