Anyone who has been through a conflicted childhood may understand the mental effect it has on us as we grow up. Those experiences become a part of our mental system and later lead to depression, a need for validation, or hatred against our parents. Many of us fall prey to our genetics and repeat the mistakes of our parents. We unconsciously and inevitably become tyrants in our children’s life. Sometimes it is impossible to break the chain until someone else does it for us. However, in the Netflix Nordic series, The Chestnut Man, a serial killer crosses the moral line to end the loop. He starts killing the bad mothers, believing he is helping the kids. But is he?
The Chestnut Man, directed by Kasper Barfoed and Mikkel Serup, is based on a 2018 Danish novel of the same name written by Soren Sveistrup. The heart-pounding thriller follows a psychopath serial killer who leaves a handmade doll of matchsticks and chestnuts near each crime scene. The killer only targets mothers, and Copenhagen (Denmark) detectives Thulin and Hess hustle to end the gruesome murders. Let’s piece together the Chestnut Man’s clues.
‘The Chestnut Man’ Plot Summary
Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) is a police investigator and a single mother who lives with her daughter, Le (Liva Forsberg), in Copenhagen. Due to her engaging fieldwork, Naia fails to give proper time to her daughter. Hence, she decides to apply for a desk job at the cybercrimes unit. Naia requests her senior, Nylander, to write her a reference for the job. But instead, Nylander assigns her a dead woman’s case and a new partner, Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). Mark is a Europol Liaison officer transferred to Denmark due to a personal tragedy.
In the meantime, the Copenhagen media highlights the minister of social affairs, Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner), and her return to parliament. Rosa’s 12-year-old daughter, Kristine, went missing last year, and a police investigation reported her dead. Her body was never recovered, yet a felon, Linus Bekker, confessed to killing her.
Detective Hess and Thulin reach Husum and investigate the house of the murdered woman, 37-year-old Laura Kjaer. Laura lived with her 10-year-old son and a new partner, Hans Henrik Hauge. The police find Laura’s dead body with an amputated hand in the playground and spot a “chestnut man” figure near the crime scene.
Forensic expert Simon Genz (David Dencik) finds Kristine Hartung’s fingerprints on the chestnut man figure, complicating the case further. Thulin requests Nylander to open Kristine’s missing case, but Nylander refuses to toy with a high-profile case that has already been closed. With limited means and resources, the detectives hustle to solve the mysterious murder of a mother and Kristine’s fingerprints on the chestnut man.
What was the pattern of the killings?
On October 12th, another mother, Anne Sejer Lassen, was found dead. The police found Anne’s body with her left and right hand amputated in the woods near her house. Earlier, Laura’s amputated hand was found in a package seized from Anne’s husband. Thulin tried to connect the murders, but Kristine’s fingerprints on the chestnut man figure procured from the crime scene were the only link between the killings.
Hess theorized that the chestnut man has no arms and legs, and thus in the upcoming murders, he would be amputating the victim’s hands and leg. Hence, they needed to act fast. With the help of a children’s doctor, Hess recovered an anonymous report filed to social services regarding Laura Kjaer. She was accused of being a “selfish mother” who was ignorant of her children’s well-being. A similar report was found against Anne Sejer Lassen for being an ignorant mother.
Thulin discovered that Laura’s boyfriend, Hans Henrik, was a pedophile who recorded her son, Magnus, in an underground cellar hidden in the garage. While Anne’s husband physically abused their daughters, police found blood stains all over their house. Thulin concluded that probably both mothers knew about the children’s abuse yet neglected it. Thus, the detectives followed the pattern and found a similar report against a single mother, Jessie Kvium. She lived with her 6-year-old daughter, Olivia. However, they failed to protect her, and Jessie was found dead near a cottage.
In the end, the Chestnut man explained the pattern that a mother must ensure that her child is not suffering. For a child, it’s all about basic instinct. The child is emotionally and mentally (in biological terms, physically as well) attached to their mother. And when she neglects her duty, she turns into an imperfect mother in his perspective.
What was the link between Kristine Hartung and the Chestnut Man?
Kristine’s fingerprints were found on the chestnut man figure obtained from the crime scene. Hess plunged into the mystery and re-investigated the missing girl’s case. He found out that Linus Bekker confessed to killing Kristine using a machete. As per the pathologist report, there was blood residue on the murder weapon, but it had no bone residue. That could probably mean that someone planted evidence on it to frame Linus Bekker.
The second concrete evidence came to light when Hess discovered that Linus was present at the crime scene when he told the police that he was driving up north with Kristine’s body. Thulin revealed that Linus didn’t confess until Tim Jansen confronted him with the machete. During the interrogation, Linus explained that he was a diagnosed schizophrenic and altered reality and facts due to his condition. Probably, in a hurry to close the case, Jansen influenced Linus to confess to killing Kristine. However, for some reason, Linus Bekker knew about the chestnut man and felt honored to be part of his crimes.
The third link sprang up when Kristine’s mother Rosa revealed to Hess and Thulin that she had been very vocal about child abuse and negligence during her political career. Due to her firm policies, many parents lost custody of their children and held Rosa responsibly. Rosa explained that she was adopted too and had a lovely childhood under her foster parents’ care. Hence, she spoke from her own experience.
Due to Rosa’s policy, a 28-year-old nurse, Benedikte Skans, lost custody of her child, who later died from a lung infection. Benedikte blamed Rosa for the loss and thus abducted Rosa’s son, Gustav, with the help of her boyfriend, Jacob Rasouli. The police tracked the couple down and found them dead in the woods while Gustav was recovered safely. Thulin found the victim’s amputated body parts in the foundry near Benedikte’s apartment, and police didn’t recover any chestnut man near the dead bodies of Benedikte and Rasouli. Detective Tim Jansen hurriedly concluded that Benedikte and Rasouli were the serial killers who used chestnuts from Rosa’s garden and killed the mothers to threaten Rosa. None of it made sense to Hess, but Nylander wanted to close the case, and Thulin wanted to return to her daughter.
However, there was another link between Kristine Hartung and the Chestnut Man that no one knew about, or to be precise, no one remembered. In the end, Rosa found a chestnut family in her house, which led to the concluding end.
Who was the Chestnut Man?
In the prologue sequence, officer Marius found three dead victims on Orum’s farm on the island of Mon in 1987. While Marius investigated the scene, he found an injured foster kid, but someone killed Marius before he could help him.
Hess scrutinized the 1987 crime scene and found numerous chestnut figures in the pictures. He visited Mon and met John Brink to unravel the mystery further. John revealed that Orum and his wife fostered two twins for money. While investigating the scene, John found the foster kids inside the basement and several VHS tapes with recordings of sexual abuse inflicted upon them by Orum and his wife. As seen in the footage, they locked the boy in a room and forced him to make chestnut men. John theorized that maybe Orum felt guilty about it and thus killed his family and shot himself in the end. The foster kids that survived the tragedy were Toke and Astrid Bering. Hess inquired about their pictures and whereabouts, but John failed to provide anything substantial. However, at John’s sister’s house, Hess found a Toke picture that solved the mystery.
Toke and Astrid Bering were first assigned to foster family, Petersen at Odsherred. The father, Paul, and mother Kirsten already had a foster daughter, Rosa, who grew up to become Copenhagen’s social minister. The twins arrived at Rosa’s foster home in 1985 but stayed for only two months. After their arrival, Rosa felt insecure and lied to her foster mother that Toke harmed her. The Petersen family sent away the Bering twins, and they ended up at the Chestnut Farm.
Orum and his wife ill-treated the twins and abused them. In response, Toke probably killed Orum and his family, while his sister, Astrid, was diagnosed with depression and drug abuse. A single action created a tragic ripple in the twin’s life, and Toke blamed Rosa for their conflicted childhood. He turned into a psychopath and grew up to become the forensic expert Simon Genz. He killed the bad mothers and abducted Rosa’s daughter Kristine to avenge his antagonist, Rosa Petersen Hartung.
‘The Chestnut Man’ Ending, Explained – Was Kristine Alive?
Simon called Rosa to the chestnut farm to reveal the fate of Kristine. In the meantime, Thulin discovered that the chestnuts obtained from the crime scene belonged to a subspecies found in Møn island. Thulin took Simon to Møn, unaware that he was the Chestnut Man.
Cunningly, Simon captured both Rosa and Thulin. He decided to chop Rosa’s body in the basement, but Hess intervened and saved Rosa. To kill them, Simon burnt the house and took Thulin hostage. After a hectic struggle, Hess saved both Rosa and Thulin. Simon was killed in a car accident as a thick tree branch pierced his chest.
Only Simon knew about Rosa’s daughter, Kristine, and after his death, the search met a dead end. Until Simon’s twin sister, Astrid, called him to inquire about Rosa. The police traced the call and found it was linked to a cellphone tower close to the Polish border. The officers infiltrated Astrid’s cottage house and arrested her. They also found Kristine locked in the room. Astrid told the police that she did what she could for the kid, and maybe, she tried to protect Kristine from her psychopathic brother. It could also be speculated that in 1987, it was Simon killed the Orum’s family to take revenge. Simon might have had psychopathic tendencies from birth, but the traumatic childhood triggered it further.
The end of The Chestnut Man witnessed Kristine reuniting with her family. The police finally closed the case. Thulin moved to the cybercrime unit so that she could give ample time to her growing daughter. Hess decided not to sell his flat, probably to return to Copenhagen after dealing with the Budapest case. The underlying romance between Hess and Thulin was suggestively hinted at when Thulin revealed that her daughter, Le, had made Hess a part of her family tree. Earlier, Le requested to include Thulin’s casual partner Sebastian in the family tree, but Thulin refused as she wasn’t sure about her relationship with Sebastian. However, with Hess, she thought she had a future.
Linus Bekker, falsely convicted of kidnapping and murdering Kristine, was released after the truth came to light. However, Bekker was a diagnosed schizophrenic who celebrated the crimes of Chestnut Man. He felt honored to be part of Simon’s grand schemes and may try to repeat his sins. The future turns of events will reveal better.
The Chestnut Man is a 2021 Crime Thriller Television Series directed by Kasper Barfoed and Mikkel Serup. It is based on a 2018 Danish Novel written by Soren Sveistrup. The series is streaming on Netflix.