Danish Political Drama Borgen starring Sidse Babett Knudsen
Danish Political Drama Borgen
So why is an Australian, on an American site, writing about a Danish political drama?
Because it's brilliant TV, that's why!
I normally get a bit annoyed by watching shows with subtitles, but this show had me hooked from day one. I couldn't wait for Wednesday nights. I even went back and re-watched the episodes on-line. It's been a long time since I was this involved in a TV series.
Borgen - Season 1-3 Trailer
Why is Borgen so good?
Borgen is extremely well written as well as having superb production values.
You get a real feeling for what it must be like to be right there in Copenhagen, the weather, the culture, and even the sorts of things that matter to people are brought alive in Borgen.
The plot is excellent, unfolds at the proper pace, is not predictable and does not make political conventions heavy-going or difficult to understand. Borgen does not treat the viewer as a simpleton, nor is it too demanding upon the viewer.
The Prime Minister - Birgitte Nyborg, Played by Sidse Babett Knudsen
The Protagonists - Sidse Babett Knudsen as The Prime Minister
Borgen reveals how politics in Denmark works by cleverly dissecting in depth only three main characters. Consequently, we can become a lot more intimate with these three.
Birgitte Nyborg (played by renowned Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen) is the first ever female Danish Prime Minister. Kasper Juul (played by Pilou Asbaek) is her spin doctor. The journalist is Katrine Fønsmark, played by the stunning Birgitte Sorensen.
Nyborg begins as a sweet and almost innocent woman, the political leader of a minor Danish party - the Moderates. She seems to have the perfect life, the perfect husband and children and to be at peace with herself.
In the first episode, the election is nigh, and the incumbent is discredited by the leading alternate candidate in a move which backfires and propels Nyborg into the Prime Ministership by default. Clearly Nyborg has a very steep learning curve.
The story follows Nyborg as she maintains her leadership through delicately balancing an often precarious coalition of small parties (each with their own disparate agendas). She ultimately makes enormous personal sacrifices and becomes a changed women. Her saving grace is that somehow she manages to salvage her integrity from being ground to mulch in the Danish political process.
In an ironic twist, one of the keys to her success and a conduit which allows her to maintain her integrity is her spin doctor, Kasper Juul. His amorality is juxtaposed against her idealism cleverly allowing her to achieve what she needs to through Kasper's talented media manipulation.
Kasper, an inveterate liar and persistent lover, is infatuated with Katrine, the journalist. They use their relationship to mutual career advantage. Katrine demonstrates the modern conundrum of journalistic integrity which is a counter-theme to that of political integrity. The media and the politicians in Borgen are like synchronized swimmers in different pools. Borgen clearly demonstrates the parasitic relationship between these two essential institutions, often as bent as each other.
Make no mistake. Borgen has some sweet characters but it is not sweet or cute. Borgen is about war - political war. Danish politicians are revealed in all their dark glory. You will see immoral compromises, dirty games, viciousness, betrayal, back room dodgy deals, lies, ruthless ambition, and the wonton destruction of people's careers and lives.
The Spin Doctor - Kasper Juul, Played by Johan Philip "Pilou" Asbæk
Borgen - Opening Title
Borgen Series 1
Borgen - A cut above other dramas
The single most appealing thing about Borgen is the character development. The main characters develop and learn as people individually and together synergistically in meaningful ways. They and their relationships morph as their circumstances change with the vicissitudes of politics.
So many shows have characters that stay as and who they are in an almost two dimensional manner. Take Downton Abbey for instance, another excellent show. But do Mary, Carson, Robert or Cora really change or grow as people? Carson is invariably, stubbornly Carson. He never changes, except to become more entrenched as Carson. No, we do not see them deepen greatly with each season though we remain fond of them (I mean who doesn't love Carson, big sop that he is). Nor do we gain the sort of insight into their personal psychology that we do with the three main characters in Borgen. This adds a whole extra layer to what otherwise would still be excellent TV.
One of the most fascinating things about Borgen is the unpacking of Kasper Juul. But no spoilers from me!
The Journalist - Katrine Fønsmark, Played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen
Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen
Borgen Series 2
Borgen - The Scene
Borgen is the Danish word for castle. The castle is what the Danes call Christiansborg Palace, the building which houses the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister's Office.
Situated in the heart of Copenhagen, the castle features in every episode, adding an air of understated authenticity. All of the indoor filming was done with sets, as they were not actually allowed to film inside the palace.
Another fascinating location is Mariensborg Manor, a 1745 manor house. The manor is situated on the shore of Lake Bagsværd, about 15 kilometres north of Copenhagen. It is the summer residence of the Danish Prime Minister and also used for official engagements and functions. Some of the filming is also done at this gorgeous historic location adding interest and charm to the production.
Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen Denmark - Borgen
Who is your favorite Borgen character?
Interview of Sidse Babett Knudsen by Female Politician
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Borgen - Awards and Recognition
As well as having been nominated for many awards in Europe and elsewhere, Borgen won:
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (Knudsen) 2011 & Best European Drama TV Series 2013 - Monte Carlo TV Festival
International Winner Award - British Film Association Television 2012
Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuals - Best TV Series and Serials & TV Series and Serials: Best Music - 2011
Prix Italia - Best TV Drama - Series and Serials - 2010
In a huge complement to the series, the producers of the hit political TV series "The West Wing" have plans to do a US remark of Borgen. (Borgen is a series which had a minuscule budget when compared to "The West Wing" but exceeds "The West Wing" in almost every way).
A similar thing was done with "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", that is, a remake in English which was for the most part true to the original. If they do a remake of Borgen I really hope they do not lose the production values and the tightness of the story.
Creator and Cast
Borgen - where to now?
At this stage there are three series with sadly no plans to produce more. The first two series are available on DVD with the third soon to come.
I can't wait to see more of this remarkable show. Let me know what you think of it!
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