In my quest to rid myself of rigidly formulaic American media, I was shocked to come across something from France: Engrenages (Translated as “Spiral” in English).

22 Feb

There is a terrific French TV police series in France called Engrenages (the first four seasons are available on Netflix here in the USA).  In addition to containing plenty of exciting action (I have to tell you that it shows rather grisly macabre crime and forensic scenes), the series delineates the different and challenging ways under which violent crimes are investigated in Paris by the police judiciare, which are handled by an investigating magistrate who reviews the allegations made through private interviews and decides whether or not to move the process forward to prosecution.  Such a system is essentially the opposite of what we Americans, and our great cousins across the sea, England use; that is an adversarial system based on common law versus the Napoleonic Code in France (which has its origins dating back to the Roman Empire).  The Napoleonic Code (also known as civil law) is still in action and it makes for fascinating viewing compared to the American criminal justice system as depicted on TV or in the movies.

The characters are very complex as well.  The sheer brutality the French police can get away with while being supervised by a French magistrate is scandalous to any American viewer.  Virtually all interrogations start with some sort of beating and there is no such thing as a Miranda warning.  The main characters are:

Police Captain Laure Berthaud.  She is a capable Paris criminal police officer who is very tenacious and tough as nails using questionable methods.  Devoted to her work, she is very attached to her male subordinates and would do (and does) anything to protect them when they make a mistake.

Assistant Prosecutor Pierre Clément.  A young magistrate with a promising career, he believes in his profession and in the integrity of justice.  That said, his success and his righteousness provoke the hostility of his superior, the powerful Republic Prosecutor of Paris.  He is close friends with Captain Berthaud and Judge Roban but also, more surprisingly, with Joséphine Karlsson (my favorite).

Judge François Roban.  An experienced investigating magistrate (juge d’instruction), solitary and hardworking, he is cold and even cruel with suspects and witnesses, but he is also aware that his job has nearly destroyed his life and the people he loved.

Lawyer Joséphine Karlsson.  She is my favorite character of all hands down, a clever, beautiful and ruthless young lawyer who is always looking for cases that will earn her the maximum amount of fame and money.  She finds it exhilarating to defend monsters and does not hesitate to cross or even double-cross legal and ethical lines to get what she wants.  What comes around goes around however, as her shady dealings and her hate for police eventually gets her into trouble.

The first four seasons are on Netflix and a fifth and sixth have been ordered in France.  As someone who is in the legal profession, I find the show nothing short of fascinating.  Engrenages makes American cop shows look like a joke.  In addition, the French language sounds like music and is a pleasure to hear.  Engrenages is also worth watching for the sake of appreciating the significant cultural differences between Europe and America.  I will tell you this, while watching Engrenages you get the feeling that the Puritans’ legacy is alive and well in the U.S.A.


Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Movie Reviews


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3 responses to “In my quest to rid myself of rigidly formulaic American media, I was shocked to come across something from France: Engrenages (Translated as “Spiral” in English).

  1. Bob

    February 22, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Braquo is a much better show. A violent French cop noir series. Check it out.


  2. Film Streaming

    November 30, 2018 at 6:28 am

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