Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Favourite Things in 2012 #5 Borgen

It's Danish. That means it's good. But it also means you get to live inside the characters' experience of their world, watching them push out against the exterior forces of the narrative, and hang on to who they are, in some cases just barely. Billed by the Sunday Express as "The Killing meets The West Wing", the series follows Birgitte Nyborg Christiansen as Denmark's first female Prime Minister (or so she was in fictional terms, until Denmark elected it's first female Prime Minister a year ago. Life imitates art?). The huge talents behind the scenes include creator Adam Price (and don't even think of pronouncing that the English way), Tobias Lindholm and the creative force of DR, Denmark's oldest television network, while boasting a who's-who of Danish acting talent including Søren Malling, Birgitte Hjort Sørenson, Pilou Asbaek, and Mikael Birkjaer. But the series belongs to the formidably compelling Sidse Babett Knudsen as the 'staatsminister', whose desire to transform her country costs her nearly everything she has. The show feels like a thriller at times, with meetings and deaths in dark places, while still finding time for careful nuancing in relationships, the breaths and beats of listening, and loving and losing. Birgitte's deep integrity becomes a rallying point around which the good ones swarm and those who wish they were good, irresistibly return. And yet, with two ten-episode seasons completed, and a third on the way, there have been plenty of opportunities for her to stumble and lose her way, search for the meaning again and go on, all against those blue winter skies, and the shifting architecture of Copenhagen.  Borgen is an icon of all that works so well in the cinema and television of the country to whom we owe so much in this art form. Once I had found it, I watched all twenty episodes in three days. You will too.