BORGEN Thursday 31 May, 2012

The Norse West Wing.

Power corrupts. That’s what Borgen would have us believe. Borgen is the latest in the list of Scandinavian imports which BBC4 has brought to our shores. It’s main focus points are the entwined worlds of politics and the media in Denmark. No murders. No wooly jumpers. No leather-trouser-wearing autistic detectives. A hard sell then. What could there possibly be of interest to a British audience in watching a Danish political melodrama? Well, for starters it’s beautifully shot, wonderfully written and expertly performed.

The cast are all beautiful (I’ve now got a big boy crush on Birgitte Hjort Sørensen – pictured above) in that effortless Scandinavian way which certainly makes viewing easy on the eye. There are also two of Sarah Lund’s sidekicks amongst the cast and they both show a measure of versatility with their roles differing from those in The Killing.

The narrative arc of the series follows just over 1 year in the political cycle. The stories work in much the same way that The West Wing does. Personal issues nestling in amongst political struggle. The key difference here though is that Borgen does not feel like watching a series of nationalist propaganda films. Don’t misunderstand me. I love The West Wing but it does love the USA a bit too much. The tone of Borgen is far more European in it’s restraint and subtlety.

It may be a bit too much like a posh soap opera for some but I think if soap operas were made with the same care and craftsmanship then we would all probably watch them. The stories covered in soap operas are human stories like those in Borgen so it’s not the stories that make soap operas objectionable it’s the way that those stories are treated that makes all the difference.

Borgen, like all the other Scandinavian dramas that the ambassador has been spoiling us with, is a wonderful opportunity to investigate a foreign culture. The issues that the politicians wrestle with are universal and at the same time, in some cases, unique to Denmark.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and after the unflinching and relentlessly heartbreaking climax I can’t wait for the next series to see how these characters, that I have grown to love, will fare.

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