Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Danish Invasion

During the Dark Ages, with the Vikings at their belligerent high-water mark, the English used to pay the Danes to stay away: Danegeld.  These days, it seems, the boot is on the other foot.  Now we pay them to come over here - or at least to send us their best television.  The two series of The Killing are among the best crime dramas in recent years; and last weekend saw the final episode of something even better: Borgen, a compelling and incisive study of the insidious effects of power, starring the magnetic Sidse Babett Knudsen.

Knudsen plays Birgitte Nyborg, the leader of a minority Danish party who, to the despair of her spin-doctor, throws away her script and speaks from the heart.  This moment makes a connection with the voters, and she scores an unexpected electoral success which makes her Staatsminister (Prime Minister) heading a fragile coalition.  She soon finds, however, that gaining power is the easy part; as the series unfolds, she is forced into a series of compromises and betrayals that take her ever further from the idealism which swept her into office.

You may have difficulty in believing that a subtitled drama about the intricacies of Danish coalition government can travel.  But Borgen uses this backdrop to explore themes of Shakespearean breadth: the nature of power, the corruption of ideals, loss of trust and betrayal.  Any temptation to soften the ending is resisted: the finale is bleak, and the price of power is exacted in full.

If you only watch one subtitled programme this year, make sure it's Borgen.


Frances Garrood said...

This sounds great, Tim. I'll look out for it. We've recently finished watching House of Cards (a boxed set given to us for Christmas). British politics this time, but seriously nasty, and absolutely brilliant!

Tim Stretton said...

It certainly has similarities to House of Cards, although from what I remember of that it had something of a satirical cartoon quality (very well done) which is absent from Borgen. But politics when done right does make for great entertainment!

Alis said...

Totally agree, Tim, I've been glued to Borgen on the iPlayer and am in mourning now it's ended! I do hope there's going to be another series.

Tim Stretton said...

Alis, there is at least one--and possibly two--more series.

While I'm delighted to think there's more to come, Birgitte's story arc is such a perfect tragedy that a sequel seems redundant. Her well-intentioned road to Hell hardly needs revisiting. But no doubt I'll be glued to the next series!

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