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Is Marcella a True Story?

June 11, 2020
4 min read

British crime series ‘Marcella’ follows the story of a woman who has to go through a number of personal, professional, and health problems, all at the same time. First, her husband leaves her for someone else. Her children, who favor their father, blame her for whatever went wrong in their marriage. Next, an old case comes knocking back at her door. A serial killer, who had evaded capture the last time, resurfaces and embarks on a killing spree that leaves little to no evidence behind.

What makes matters worse for her is her own mind. A previous illness comes back to haunt her and she starts losing time. The gaps in her memory lead her to question her own involvement in the cases she is investigating and the tragedies that changed her life. ‘Marcella’ creates a raw and intimate story of a flawed but understandable character while serving us a series of chilling crimes. Where does this authenticity come from? Is ‘Marcella’ based on a true story? Let’s find out.

Is Marcella Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Marcella’ is a fictional crime-drama created and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, who is also known for creating another critically acclaimed Swedish crime series, ‘The Bridge’. Following the success of the Nordic noir series, Rosenfeldt was approached by Nicola Larder, who serves as the co-creator and the executive producer of the series, to create a British crime drama with a woman at its centre. She outlined the idea of a female detective whose marriage has crumbled and during this personal upheaval, she is pulled back into an old case.

‘Marcella’ was Rosenfeldt’s first foray into English language series, and the producers wanted him to carry the trademark of Nordic noir into a British setting. The change in surroundings from Sweden to Britain was a challenge for the writer, who also came to know about a lot of nuances that culturally differentiate the two places. However, he quickly adapted to this change and found his footing with the show.

For the crimes depicted in the series, Rosenfeldt didn’t exactly depend on any real-life inspiration. For creating the protagonist, he turned towards one of his own creations to get a sense of what his new character should be like. In ‘The Bridge’, the protagonist is Sara Noren, a by-the-book detective who depends on reason rather than feelings to get to the bottom of a case. In the quest to do something different with Marcella, because he knew that comparisons would be made between the two of them, he went to the opposite end of the spectrum. He made Marcella Backland more prone to breaking the rules when it came to getting what she wants. This volatility also allowed him to add a sense of instability around her, which not only makes the audience question her actions but the character itself is unsure of what they did or didn’t do.

Another aspect of ‘The Bridge’ that influenced his writing for ‘Marcella’ was the way of storytelling. Often, in the series, some random characters are introduced to the audience. At the time, we can make no connection whatsoever between them and the case. But, as the story progresses, their arc converges with the central story, and they turn out to be just another piece of the puzzle created in the show.

Rosenfeldt found that it was an effective way to keep the audience on toes throughout the season. Instead of giving them a straight introduction and the connection of characters to the story, toying with it, at first, kept the viewers guessing about everyone’s real purpose. Apart from this, it also proved to be a good way to introduce the characters, independent of the central mystery, and paint a picture of their true natures to the audience, before the cops knock on their doors.

Read More: Where was Marcella Filmed?

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