BLOG Linda Rhinehart

NWR Issue r19

Hinterland at the National Library of Wales

On 21 October I attended a bilingual discussion with Ed Thomas, co-creator of the television drama Hinterland (Y Gwyll in Welsh), along with writer Cynan Jones and photographer David Wilson. It was centred on the crime series, especially in relation to the Ceredigion landscape, and also served as a book launch for Hinterland, Ceredigion Landscapes, published by Graffeg. The book focuses on the relationship between the setting of the show in Ceredigion and its storylines, and includes essays by the series’ creators as well as by award-winning Welsh novelist and scriptwriter Cynan Jones (a Welsh version is also available with contributions by award-winning Welsh-language novelist Caryl Lewis).

Accompanying these pieces, in what is probably the most important element of the book, are David Wilson’ photographs, many of them in black and white. These do an excellent job of capturing the Ceredigion landscape, especially its vastness and the beauty of its water and trees. I found the black and white photographs to generally be more interesting than those taken in colour, although many of the pictures made the landscape appear more drab and dreary than it is in reality (although this is entirely in keeping with the noir atmosphere of Hinterland).

The discussion itself took place in front of a projection of Wilson’s photographs. I was interested to learn, having known relatively little about the drama before attending this talk, that the series is broadcast separately in English and Welsh. Thomas talked about the Welsh and English versions (the English is the original script but the series is broadcast in Welsh first), and how that led to the producers’ choice of the ‘hinterland’ of Aberystwyth as a setting because of the predominance of Welsh here. A desire to remain authentic was cited as a major concern several times, and Wilson described the crucial creative role of location manager in driving around investigating areas for specific stories. Everything that was deemed unsuccessful in the Welsh version was also taken out of the English one (as the stories are identitical, apart from the use of Welsh in the English version as a marker for DCI Mathias’ outsider status, and are shot back-to-back). The emphasis was on the intrinsic role of landscape within the series.

In many shots of sweeping landscape, the human figure appears small, almost insignificant, unlike in many television shows, where people and faces are predominant. The producers of Hinterland wanted to create a sense of solitude, even loneliness and grief, as a projection of characters’ feelings and journeys. Wilson described Ceredigion’s interior as ‘vast’ and ‘prairie-like’. Similarly, Thomas explained that he did not want the police station to be ‘fetishised’ as it is in many procedural shows. Likewise, no contemporary or cultural references or multinational companies or shops are screened. This allows the series to possess a very localised aura as well as, ironically, extending shelf-life in a medium which is easily dated. Especially interesting was that the filmmakers tried to use the colour green as little as possible, since green is considered to be a ‘happy’ colour and can easily distract from other colours. Thomas stated that the creators had been inspired by the films Winter’s Bone and The Lives of Others (das Leben der Anderen) in their use of natural landscapes and filming techniques. Wilson said that he wanted to capture ‘narratives’ rather than merely ‘pictures’. It was fascinating to learn more about this locally created media with an international reach.

Linda Rhinehart is an Aberystwyth-based blogger.

Photos by David Wilson courtesy of Graffeg.

Hinterland, Ceredigion Landscapes is out now, alongside, a Welsh version, Tirweddau Ceredigion, published by Graffeg, and a bilingual 2018 calendar of the photographs from both these books is available here


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