By Caitlin Kelly
In the summer of 2017, Kim Wall, an adventurous, ambitious 30-year-old Swedish freelance journalist made a last-minute phone call to Peter Madsen, a Danish inventor in Copenhagen. She wanted to ride in his home-made submarine, a potential story.
It’s the sort of thing many freelancers do all the time, without deep concern about the risks, as the rewards are obvious.
It would be her last.
He killed her, dismembered her and threw her into the water.
Now, HBO Europe has released a six-part series about the hunt for her killer, The Investigation, on in the U.S.
The show never once names him, referring to him only as “the accused.”
If you, as I do, loved the Danish show Borgen, this brings back two very familiar faces — Pilou Asbek as the prosecutor (who played the spin doctor in Borgen) and Soren Malling as the chief of Copenhagen police (the TV director in Borgen.)
We never see or hear much about Kim herself except through the characters who play her parents, who were as committed to her independence and freelance life as she was. It’s never an easy life, and one many parents find too worrisome and penurious, so this is an interesting piece of the story.
The show moves slowly, with many setbacks and confusion and a lot of frustration — just as much detective work actually unfolds in real life. Madsen was not tried and convicted until April 2018.
I found the show emotionally hard to watch — (I didn’t know Kim)– as it could easily have been me or many other freelancers. Our lives are full of such crazy adventures — many quite risky — we undertake in order to find and tell compelling stories.
And we go alone.
At 25, for a story about the many challenges of trucking goods across the EU, I climbed into an 18-wheeler French truck, met its driver, Pierre Boue, and set off from Perpignan to Istanbul (eight days.) We had never met or spoken. We were both single and he was 35. We. slept on tiny bunks in the truck cab, with no privacy possible. There was no Internet then or cell phones.
It proved one of the best weeks of my life and my career.
But it looked risky as hell.
Here’s a story about it from Vox:
This, from IndieWire:
Some audiences may balk at the ways the HBO show (now available in full on HBO Max) removes some of these standard elements of biographical crime stories. In staying as close to its title as possible, though, “The Investigation” managed to address a recent tragedy in a surprisingly clear-headed way.
Much of that stems from the way that “The Investigation” handles the passage of time. Though the season spans months, writer/director Lindholm resists putting down easy markers to wring tension out of breaks in the case. There’s a sameness to the way it unfolds, the kind where a whiteboard sits with words and diagrams written on it that no one’s bothered to erase because there’s nothing new to add, either from detective Jens Møller Jensen (Søren Malling) or prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen (Pilou Asbæk). Finding Wall’s body becomes the overwhelming part of their pursuit — if the show returns to the details of the retrieval process and an item-by-item timeline of everything that happened on the submarine, it underlines how singular their pursuit is.
It’s not an easy show to watch, obviously, and some of the details are very grim.
But what made it most compelling to me was the police’s shared dogged determination to solve this crime and the incredible teamwork it took — including months of diving to find her and her belongings.
Have you watched it?
What did you think?
7 thoughts on “Kim Wall’s murder: “The Investigation” on HBO”
This is the first I’m hearing of it. But given the true crime kick I’ve been on lately, I might check it out.
It’s well known in my circles, obviously.
I can imagine.
I know of this case – heartbreaking – but I haven’t seen “The Investigation.”
It’s well worth the time.
i remember this case very well, and followed it’s long path toward resolution. i look forward to this series and i’m happy it rolls out slowly for the audience, just as it tragically did in real time. i also look forward to know learning more about the case, as i am a true crime fan. all that being said, it is a risky business you and many other freelancers are in, and i’m sure it is often a balance of wanting to follow an opportunity to tell a story and keeping yourself safe. your truck story is one such example.
It is well-done and compassionate, not creepily voyeuristic.