movie film review | chris tookey

Borgen (TV)

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  Borgen (TV) Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
9.56 /10
Sidse Babett Knudsen , Birgitte Hjort Sorensen , Soren Malling
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Directed by: Soren Kragh-Jacobsen, Louise Friedberg, Jesper W. Nielsen, Mikkel Norgaard, Annette K. Olesen, Rumle Hammerich, Jannik Johansen, Henrik Ruben Genz,Charlotte Sieling
Written by: Adam Price, Jeppe Gjervig Gram, Tobias Lindholm, Maja Jul Larsen, Jannik Tai Mosholt, Maren Louise Kaehne. Created by Adam Price and Jeppe Gjervig Gram

Released: 2010
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: Denmark
Length: 0

Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen, pictured left) has to grapple with forming a coalition government, cope with corruption and survive an imploding marriage, as she becomes Denmark’s first female prime minister.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Borgen was created by the same people who made the Danish hit series The Killing, and it’s of similar quality. Borgen (which literally means ”castle”) is the informal name for the Christiansborg Palace where most of the political and legal power centres in Denmark are based. The main character is obviously inspired by that country’s first female prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, though Thorning-Schmidt was elected only after the second series of Borgen had been made.

Denmark’s answer to The West Wing is a first-rate political drama, but it’s many other things as well. Like The Good Wife, it offers a brilliantly observed account of the impact a career can have on a woman’s personal life (and on men, too). Birgitte Nyborg is a feminist icon, a strong woman who speaks her mind and wields power over the opposite sex, but she’s emotionally vulnerable and far from perfect. She bears grudges, she can be mean and petulant, and she’s willing to sacrifice close friends for the sake of hanging on to office; but being flawed makes her more realistic and, strangely, sympathetic. We agonize with her as she tries to preserve her principles when events are turning against her, and we share her dismay as her initially supportive husband drifts away.

Oddly enough, most critics were too infatuated with her (and Knudsen’s magical performance) to notice that Borgen is in some ways a Shakespearean tragedy. The leading character pretty much destroys herself through her determination to be a successful centre-left politician. I looked in vain through the reviews for anyone daring to draw a parallel with Tony Blair, but it is certainly there.

Pilou Asbaek is marvellous as Birgitte’s slick, Machiavellian spin-doctor, trying to hide a dark back-story in his own life. Equally superb is Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (pictured right) as the sexy, ambitious but lonely journalist Katrine. However, there are splendid actors in quite minor roles, most of them with their own struggles and compromises to make.

Borgen was far too subtle and multi-layered to be branded a soap opera, but it had a soap’s power to draw an audience in and keep it fascinated with what was going to happen next. There hasn’t been a better feature film about politics; that’s how good this is.

The show’s politics are definitely of the centre-left, and anyone on the right is portrayed as downright malevolent. So my compliments go to Ole Thostrup, who makes the rabid right-winger
Sven Age Daltum a surprisingly rounded figure, against all the odds, as he rails against the smugness and political correctness that surrounds him. I felt the same sneaking admiration for him as I do for Nigel Farage. I’d love a political series in which the Right isn’t routinely demonised; but maybe that is too much to hope for.

Regrettably, there were only three series (30 episodes) of Borgen. Like Fawlty Towers, the creators let the series end when it was still fresh, and of the highest quality.

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