TODD REISZ, Daniel Rose (’51) Visiting Assistant Professor, Yale School of Architecture
Like other exported Swedish crime dramas, “Jordskott” has its fair share of sublime morbidity. I haven’t finished the series, so I will betray here only a partial spoiler. Like other Swedish crime dramas, this one follows a sharp, socially awkward, beautiful, and preternaturally tough protagonist. The plot focuses on Eva’s return to her hometown Silverhöjd, which is being strangled by the forest. She learns that ingesting a nasty-looking parasite can save your life in Silverhöjd and even clean up a rash on your supermodel-proportioned forearm.
A mirrored society of non-humans haunts Eva’s hometown. These other creatures are of the forest while the humans are of the town once built with wood fairly harvested from the forest. There once existed a symbiosis between the two societies (town and forest). But then Silverhöjd’s industrialists became stricken with capitalist greed for more forest access, which led to a xenocide campaign to clear out the resisting forest people.
At great risk, police officers, miscreant children, and loggers enter the contentious forest. Its cushiony floor is blanketed in a disarming misty green. But that’s a ruse. Festering heaps of organic rot conceal chutes to caverns below where shadow people mix potions to kill some people and heal others. The protagonist probes this underground, searching for clues about an aboveground epidemic of throat-slittings and kidnappings. She becomes entwined in a forest resounding with darkness, decay, transgression, and most of all, pending environmental catastrophe.
There are a few lessons in “Jordskott.” One is a horror tale about the need for forest stewardship. Another is the discovery of dank passageways that drip muck, channel rancid stenches, and lead eventually into the hallways of the town’s houses. Until the discovery that the town is penetrated by the damp hollows of nature, it might have seemed that civilization had been safely severed from the dark, that modern ideals of assured profits and hygienic lifestyles would reign. In a last effort to protect this appearance of nature’s submission, the industrialists of Silverhöjd are ready to take out the forest and its mirrored society by total annihilation. Once and for all, civilization would rule.
I don’t know yet if the annihilation plans will be successful, but it’s difficult to imagine a world where fetid tendencies have been entirely eliminated. The forest, whether it is filled with the mirrored race or our own feral selves, must creep into our perfect systems. Not simply because of neglected “design flaws,” but because it has to. Effluent pipes will burst, mold will paint itself on to pristine interiors, and creeping plant life will take over war zones. Putrid surfaces and scents need to be let into our well-drawn plans. Our grids and our systems are sold to us as the countermeasures to nature’s fecund mush of decay and life. Knowing better, we should instead seek out a regular dose of dark invasion.