By Samantha Kilford, Second Year, English Literature
In August 2017, Swedish freelance journalist Kim Wall received a text from a Danish inventor she’d been attempting to interview for months. Heading out to the island of Refshaleøen in Copenhagen harbour, Wall boarded the home-made midget submarine UC3 Nautilus to meet Peter Madsen face-to-face. Kim Wall was never seen alive again.
It was one of the most notorious cases in Denmark’s history, making international headlines after parts of Wall’s mutilated body began to surface in different locations. Madsen initially claimed he had dropped Wall off on land. He then said that she had died on board the submarine in a mishap after he accidentally dropped the hatch on her head and had chosen to bury her at sea as per maritime tradition. He later changed his story once more to suggest her death had been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning when toxic fumes filled the vessel.
In April 2018, Madsen was eventually charged with murder, indecent handling of a corpse, and sexual assault.
Made with full cooperation of Kim Wall’s parents, Ingrid and Joachim Wall, six-part series The Investigation is an deglamorized look at those who worked tirelessly to catch and convict Madsen.
The show stars Scandi fan favourites such as Søren Malling as Deputy Chief Superintendent Jens Møller and Game of Thrones’ (2011- 2019) Pilou Asbaæk as lead prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen and Rolf Lassgård and Pernilla August as Wall’s parents. There’s even an appearance from the Walls’ actual dog, Iso, who plays himself.
Interestingly, Madsen and Wall are never depicted on screen. In fact, Madsen is never even mentioned by name throughout the entire series and is instead referred to as ‘the accused’ or ‘the suspect’. Writer-director Tobias Lindholm explains that he was eager to turn the spotlight away from Madsen, telling The New York Times;
‘I wanted to make a story about heroes, so I didn’t have room for him… It liberated me to tell a humane story’.
And Lindholm has done exactly that.
The Investigation subverts the expectations of a typical true crime drama. The attention isn’t focused on the twisted ‘eccentric’ killer, but it is instead a story about those who spent night and day trying to crack this case. We see not just the frustration of the detectives and prosecutors battling to piece together a conviction, but the physically exhausting work of the divers who spent months searching the seabed in freezing temperatures, as well as the team of Swedish cadaver dogs and scientists analysing currents and wind speeds and directions. It’s also a story about the grieving parents desperate to know what happened to their daughter.
There’s no flashy action in The Investigation; it is a fair depiction of the sheer, often monotonous grind of police work.
Each episode advances the search for Wall’s remains (while maintaining a level of intensity one would expect from a crime drama). At times, it is incredibly frustrating to watch, but in the best possible way. The slow pace at which The Investigation moves not only allows us to understand why it took so many months for the police to form a solid conviction against Wall’s killer, but it also serves as a reminder of the Herculean efforts made by all involved. Everyone who worked on Wall’s case has their moment in the spotlight and if the gruelling efforts depicted in The Investigation are even half accurate, then it is well earned.
Though there may be no appearance of Kim Wall in the show, the makers of The Investigation give the highly accomplished journalist the recognition she deserves. A London School of Economics and Columbia University graduate, Wall was a talented reporter who contributed to publications such as The Guardian, The New York Times and Vice. In March 2016, she won the Hansel Mieth Prize for Best Digital Reportage for a multimedia report on climate change and nuclear weapons testing in Marshall Islands. The series also draws attention to and promotes the Kim Wall Memorial Fund set up by her family and friends after her death to award grants to young female journalists whose reporting carries forward Wall’s legacy.
A heart-wrenching and inspiring series, The Investigation highlights the importance of a system where truth matters and reminds us just what can be achieved when people band together to do their jobs and deliver justice in a chaotic world.
Featured: HBO, IMDb
Are you a fan of true crime?