The Snowman: Is the 2017 Movie Inspired by a Real Serial Killer?

‘The Snowman,’ directed by Tomas Alfredson, is a 2017 crime thriller movie starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jonas Karlsson. Set in Oslo, Norway, this film follows a police investigation helmed by Inspectors Harry Hole and Katerine Bratt against a serial killer who targets women and leaves behind a menacing snowman at every crime scene. As the two inspectors follow the trail of dead bodies and clues left behind by the killer, they also deal with their emotional baggage revolving around family.

Ultimately, the man behind the Snowman killings is revealed to be Mathias Lund-Helgesen. Due to the contemporary premise of the story that revolves around the mystery of a serial killer on the loose, viewers might be curious to find out if there is any true connection between The Snowman Killings and a real-life Serial killer. If you’re wondering the same, here is everything you need to know about the background of the Snowman Killer from ‘The Snowman.’

The Snowman Killer: Based on Jo Nesbø’s Novel

No, the Snowman is not based on a real serial killer. Instead, the character of Mathias Lund-Helgesen, AKA The Snowman, is based on his literary counterpart from the 2007 Norwegian novel ‘The Snowman’ by Jo Nesbø. The novel is the seventh installment of Nesbø’s crime series, centering around the fictional Detective Harry Hole. In both the movie and the book, The Snowman Killer is a serial killer who goes after women whom Mathias personally deems to be immoral or terrible mothers.

While speaking with The Guardian, author Jo Nesbø discussed crime authors’ tendency to showcase violence against women in their works. “Violence against women is a problem in society – it is something we should talk about. I would be more worried if there was an absence of violence against women in fiction because it’s a problem in real life,” said Nesbø. According to WHO, about every 1 in 3 women has suffered physical or sexual violence once in their lifetime. Additionally, women reportedly have a slightly higher chance of being victims of serial killings.

Moreover, Mathias’s motive behind his violent murders stems from childhood abuse and neglect. He is the illegitimate son of Jonas Lund-Helgesen, who is having an extramarital affair with the former’s mother, Sarah. After she threatens to disclose their affair to Jonas’s family, he leaves her and her son behind. His abandonment inadvertently leads to Sarah dying by suicide. Jonas then uses his position as a lawman to cover up her death and refuses to take in a now orphaned Mathias.

Therefore, Mathias grows up in an orphanage, and instead of blaming his biological father for the shortcomings in his life, he blames his mother. As a result, he started punishing “bad mothers” to take revenge on his dead mother. Criminologists and other researchers often discuss the correlation between childhood trauma and violent tendencies as an adult. In the 1990s, FBI Profiler Robert Ressler conducted the Criminal Personality Research Project. In his research, he interviewed 36 convicted murderers and found that 40% had gone through childhood abuse.

Another aspect of Mathias that mirrors serial killers in real life is his hiding in plain sight. At the movie’s start, viewers might expect something supernatural or mystical to be behind the Snowman Killings because of the eerie silhouette of a snowman that accompanies misfortune. Later, the suspicion shifts to corrupt businessmen like Arve Støp and Idar Vetlesen. However, in the end, the culprit ends up being someone Harry has been in contact with for the entirety of the movie. In real life, serial killers are often seemingly mundane people with ordinary lives that seamlessly blend into a crowd.

Ultimately, The Snowman Killer, AKA Mathias, from ‘The Snowman’ is not based on an actual serial killer. He is a fabrication of author Jo Nesbø’s imagination, further built upon by screenplay writers Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini, and Søren Sveistrup. Several aspects of his identity as a serial killer may remind viewers of real-life killers, like his motives, backstory, and penchant for signing off his murders with a calling card. Regardless, Mathias doesn’t share any firm connection with a real person.

Read More: The Snowman Ending, Explained: Who is the Killer?