Monday, 14 January 2013

Borgen: Season 1 by Adam Price – Review

Borgen is a Danish political drama written by Adam Price and produced by DR. After Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, finally I found a political series’ synopsis which could grab my attention but unlike the above mentioned series, Borgen is far from humour. It is translated as Government in several subtitle files though; the literal translation is just Castle and Borgen just happens to be the nickname of the Christiansborg Palace, the Danish Parliament (also includes the Prime Minister’s office and the Supreme Court).

With the elections being round the corner, the story concentrates on the Moderate Party a left oriented so called centrist party, a relatively small party led by Birgitte Nyborg Christensen. Birgitte is a middle aged woman, married and a mother of two. She is very strong on her principles and doesn’t go beyond them even if doing such an act can potentially make her a prime minister.

The other lead character in the story is Birgitte Nyborg’s spin doctor, Kasper Juul, extremely talented and effective, professionally but his personal life is a disaster, mainly because of his highly secretive nature, not many know much about his past. Giving a lead role to Kasper inevitably leads to Katrine Fønsmark, a journalist for TV1, becoming an important character. A workaholic journalist and more than that, Kasper’s ex-girlfriend, who had mainly split because of his nature but nevertheless, Katrine is still the only person who Kasper loves. 

Hanne Holm (Benedikte Hansen), Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), Bent Sejrø (Lars Knutzon) , Michael Laugesen (Peter Mygind), BIRGITTE NYBORG (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Kaspet Juul (Pilou Asbæk), Philip Christensen (Mikael Birkkjær), Torben Friis (Søren Malling) - Format: character name(actor/actress' name); from left to right.

Coming to the story, the all party debate on election eve ends up as a disaster for both, the incumbent Prime Minister Lars Hesselboe and also, the Leader of Opposition Michael Laugesen and their loss ends up as Birgitte Nyborg’s gain. Moderate party end up doubling their number of seats, paving way for Birgitte Nyborg to lead a coalition and become Denmark’s first female prime minister (incidentally, Denmark got its first woman for the job months after Birgitte Nyborg took office). The story concentrates on various issues, handles one issue per episode. It effectively focuses on how a prime minister changes after coming to power, the problems faced by her, both at the workplace and also at home.

I loved the way how the gradual change in Birgitte Nyborg’s personality was portrayed, as a woman so strong on ethics till she comes into power and gives them up the moment she comes into power. For instance, she sacked Kasper on the election eve for doing something what he was expressly told to not do and immediately after coming to power, she starts saying things like, ‘we can’t think of what is right or what is wrong when it comes to the question of survival  in the government’ and also, eventually even rehires Kasper. The story also had three dimensions to it, the political side of it, which is the crux of the drama but with it, there is also the other side, the media – with focus on Katrine Fønsmark and her colleagues at TV1 and the last dimension being the lives of the lead characters outside their profession. Moreover, the choice of events / issues were good, in the episode, all relevant and contemporary events, such as the Greenland problem, a state visit, surveillance on a politician, problems within the three party coalition among several others. 

On the other side, what I strongly felt was that Birgitte Nyborg, in any dire situation, somehow manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Yes, I do agree that in some cases, she did negotiate very well but, in several other cases, in an absolutely no hope situation, she gets some input with which she manages to suppress the ones who are attacking her. Only on very rare occasions, she was forced into decisions which she didn’t want to take. Effectively, she could’ve been given the title Saint Birgitte, since; even the most efficient and committed leaders have committed blunders during the tenure but I couldn’t observe anything so significant from Birgitte Nyborg. Besides Birgitte Nyborg, the extreme focus on Katrine Fønsmark’s personal life and her infatuations were extremely boring and was in fact, a hindrance to the flow. Besides that, I also wasn’t particularly pleased about the lack of continuity in the episodes and the author, decided to stick on to his unwritten rule of his one event per episode whereas I felt some of those were concluded in a rather abrupt manner and the author could’ve considered extending the same to the next episode.

 I found some of the aspects rather weird or even illogical. First, I’ve hardly seen anyone giving up power, especially political power after having tasted it, but, in Michael Laugesen’s case, after a cock up, he completely quit politics and became standard civilian, working for a newspaper. Moreover, in my country of residence, even if a sundry MP moves around, leave alone the Prime Minister, the entire traffic is blocked, with a minimum of eight police cars surrounding the politician’s car but in Borgen, the incumbent Prime Minister has no security personnel stationed around her place of residence nor does a police fleet keep her on guard wherever she goes. It does sound rather illogical but if that is the reality, then hats off to little Denmark.

Those who enjoy a politics, in my opinion, would surely enjoy Borgen. As far as the rating is concerned, for the concept and the choice of events, I’d give Borgen a seven and shall go no further, considering the negatives which can’t be ignored. The second season of Borgen would certainly be something to watch out for, and it’d be interesting to see if it manages to please me as much as the first, if not more.

Rating - 7/10

Have a nice day,


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