Tag Archives: Katrine Fonsmark

BBC4…It is ‘Hej Hej’ from Borgen

16 Dec

All good things come to an end and so it was with Borgen.  The latest in the Scandi-dramas that has enthralled audiences of BBC4 has said hej hej and “tak for the memories”.  Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and all the other characters that made staying in on a Saturday evening and watching BBC4, or at least catching up on BBC iPlayer  the next day, a worth while event.

I look back over the three series and pick out my highlights of the show.

Villain of the show

There were three main contenders; smarmy yuppie hipster and TV executive Alex Hjort (Christian Tafdrup), irascible old school right winger Svend Åge Saltum (Ole Thestrup), and slimy politician turned tabloid newspaper editor Michael Laugesen (Peter Mygind). Saltum arguably is not a villain in the truest sense of the word, as despite his odious reactionary beliefs he ultimately represents a not insubstantial section of the electorate that share that belief. That leaves Laugesen and Hjort, and it is no contest. As shallow, ratings obsessed and cowardly Alex Hjort was in comparison with Laugesen he was a rank amateur. From hounding a former rival into suicide, to sending his lackeys to stalk Birgitte’s daughter at the hospital she was being treated, Laugusen’s dark shadow spanned the series and the fear of his newspaper Ekspres was often the beginning of wisdom in Borgen.

Episode of the show

There were two stand out episodes for me. The first was the episode in which Laugesen set up former Labour party rival Troels Höxenhaven (Lars Brygmann) with a male prostitute. An event which ultimately led to Höxenhaven’s suicide. It was a dark episode. The other contender for me was when Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbæk) shared the deepest darkest secrets of his life with his on-off girlfriend Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen). He couldn’t bring himself to talk about the abuse he received as a child but the scene where he left the few things he kept from his childhood for Katrine, and these detailed his abuse, as she read through them the emotions that evoked were very powerful. Two strongly emotive episodes that epitomised how good Borgen is. Of the two the Kasper Juul story for me was a good as Borgen would ever get.

Miss of the show

Borgen is great, but when you film 30 episodes you are bound to get something that is not right, at least not by the high standards the show had set. There is only one winner here, when Borgen did an expected segway into what could only be described as an opening scene of a 1970′s Scandinavian adult movie. Birgitte’s marriage had fallen apart, problems at home were overwhelming her, and to cap it all her sink was leaking. In desperation she calls on her official chauffeur to help out. As he fixes the sink, Birgitte’s seduces and ultimately gets to have her wicked ways with him. Just wasn’t right. The other close contender for the miss of the season was when Borgen tried to go all “West Wing” on us with the episodes around the fictional country of Kharun. Borgen does not really work well outside the confines of Christiansborg.

Wimp of the show

Two men stand out, Troels Höxenhaven, the politician, a man who felt he had a right to power but struggled to seize the moment as opportunities came and went. Torben Friis (Søren Malling), the TV editor, bullied and victimised by his management and almost losing his family and career in the process. Both men were inherently weak, but Torben did find some sort of redemption when he eventually stood his ground against his boss Alex Hjort. Höxenhaven never found the opportunity to redeem himself.

Hero of the show

The obvious choice would be Birgitte Nyborg on the back to her improbable rise to power, almost performing the same trick twice, despite never winning an outright majority. Her fairy tale political life however would almost certainly have come to nought without the presence of her right hand man Bent Sejrø (Lars Knutzon). Serjo was clearly not a man you would call a slave to fashion, with his scruffy beard, partially knotted ties and all round scruffy demeanor, but what he was was Birgitte’s moral compass and mentor. Whatever trials and tribulations she faced she knew there was always someone she could count on and that was Bent.

Re-live the best moments from Borgen with with Season 1, 2 and 3 on DVD from Amazon.

BBC4 …Borgen is back for Season 3.

24 Nov

Some men change their party for the sake of their principles… others their principles for the sake of their party.

The much lauded Danish political thriller Borgen is back on BBC4 for a third season. When we left the denizens of Christiansborg last season Birgitte Nyborg (“Sidse Babett Knudsen“) was a woman on the verge of a complete breakdown. Her personal life was in tatters, her was daughter fighting depression and her political career was in turmoil. The season ended with Birgitte giving a Churchillian speech as she leads her troops into a general election.

In Season 3 we rejoin Borgen two and a half years on. Birgitte has lost power, she has left the political arena and is now a well-paid speaker in business circles sitting on several boards, and is no longer leader of the party.

The other characters in Borgen have all gone through Major life changes. Kasper Juul (“Pilou Asbæk“) and Katrine Fønsmark (“Birgitte Hjort Sørensen“) moved in together, had baby and have now split up. Lars Hesselboe (“Søren Spanning“), leader of the Liberal Party is now the Prime Minister in coalition with the Moderates.

Birgitte may have left politics but Politics hasn’t left her. Her mentor and close political associates Bent Sejrø (“Lars Knutzon“) worries about the direction the Moderate Party is drifting away from its centrist political ideology as it supports the right wing Liberal party in government.

Birgitte is eventually convinced to stage a comeback and fight for the leadership of the Moderate Party, she does and loses, and is now left with only one choice if she wishes to remain relevant in politics, form her own Political Party.

This sets the tone for the Season 3, the emergence of her new Party the New Democrats. A party made entirely in her image and further step in the evolution of Birgitte from a woman who wanted to change politics to a woman who is changing politics to suit her personal ambition.

BBC1. Bluestone 42. A hidden comedy gem in the late night schedules

26 Oct

If you were to take a large dollop of the 70′s hit series M*A*S*H, mix in a couple of teaspoons of Channel 4′s comedy ‘Green Wing‘, add just a soupçon of the ‘Carry On’ films, flavour with an essence of the Oscar winning film The Hurt Locker while not forgetting to sieve out any thought-provoking darkness or depth, the end result? Bluestone 42.

Bluestone 42 is a light-hearted take on what is potentially a controversial subject. The Comedy drama follows the day to day goings on in the lives of a bomb disposal detachment serving in Afghanistan. With Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) accounting for over fifty percent of British casualties in the ongoing Afghanistan war it was always going to be a tricky topic to base a comedy on. The writers, by concentrating on the often mundane downtime in the camp that the troops experience between patrols and being called into action, manage to avoid any really tricky issues.

What you get is a very funny comedy with a focus of banter between troops who find themselves with a lot of time on their hands, and a very unlikely wartime romantic “would they, wont they” arc between an officer and the camp chaplain.

Following in the steps of ‘Gavin and Stacey‘, ‘Torchwood‘ and ‘Little Britain‘. Bluestone 43 has made the leap from the youth programming laboratory that is BBC 3 to the mass market, big audiences and promise of multiple series offered by BBC1.

For fans of Borgen, the Danish political thriller that was a big hit for BBC4, yesterday’s episode of Bluestone had a bit of a crossover with Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Katrine Fonsmark in Borgen) making a guest appearance as a Danish Journalist. Preview is below.

 

BBC4…Borgen – Has Birgitte Nyborg finally crossed to the dark side?

20 Jan

Ok I am not going to beat around the bush here but last night Borgen was some of the best TV I have watched in a long time, the final scene with Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbæk) was a tour de force, an award-winning portrayal of a man with a deeply scarred soul.

In season One a secret was shared with the viewers about Kasper Juul, a deep dark secret of his sexual abuse by his father. A vile abuse in a lonely home somewhere deep in Denmark. We came to learn that what seemed to be the arrogant swagger of a workaholic Lothario who prowled the corridors of power at the Borgen was a cover to hide a deeply ingrained emotional trauma.

This week more was revealed about the nature of that trauma, we learnt that it wasn’t just his father who had raped him, but he was shared like some weekly prize amongst his father’s peadophiliac poker buddies. We saw the emotional blackmail used by his father to hide his vile crimes from Kasper’s mum. We were however still the only ones who have shared these horrific memories with Kasper. Katrine, Lotte and Birgitte, all the women in his life had no idea till this episode.

Katrine was the closest to the truth but still so far till tonight. In an emotional scene Kasper retrieved the only possession he seemed to have, a collection of bits and pieces from his parents house including a VHS video and newspaper clippings. After a heated argument with Lotte his current girlfriend, as once again Kasper failure to commit unravels a relationship, he storms out of her flat.

It seems at this point he comes to some sort of epiphany, that he needs to share the burden he has carried all his life with some one else. He hands the collection of his memories to Katrine at her flat and walks away. Reading through the clips and watching the video she suddenly begins to understand all the layers Kasper had been hiding behind, the lies about his family in the South of France, the fear of commitment. She sees the pain, loneliness and despair Kasper had lived with.

The moment Kasper and Katrine meet again no words need to be spoken. We now all knew.

While Kasper was unburdening his soul Birgitte burdens were getting heavier and the idealism of season one was being replaced a much darker cynicism. A cynicism which she is quick to embrace but whose outcomes she struggles to control. We see how quickly she throws her long term ally Amir Dwian, the Green Party Leader, to the baying Press hounds when she leaks his love of a petrol guzzling vintage car to press, sparking a frenzy to expose the hypocrisy of his position.

She does this to force his hand into agreeing to some government legislation, but in doing so precipitated the end of Amir’s political career, the Green Party leaving the coalition and transforming her government into a minority one.

One the home front we see that being single mother and Prime Minister of a medium sized western European nation is not a recommended career progression. Her children, especially her daughter Laura are feeling the strain but Birgitte can’t see it.

She believes she is on a mission borne out of idealism but is this still the case or is it as the opening quote suggests “Much that passes as idealism is a disguised love of power. ”

One a side not the deliciously odious Svend Åge Saltum is given a lot of airtime and he rises admirably to his role as the pantomime villain of the piece (at least for now).

BBC4…Borgen gets seriously Machiavellian.

13 Jan

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared” – Machiavelli

This was the opening quote in the credits of the second episode of yesterday’s Borgen double-header but it could apply to either of the two back to back episodes, and really when you think about it to the whole season as Borgen is getting very Machiavellian.

In Season One Birgitte Nyborg was breath of fresh air, a reformer, a political outsider with principled stands seeking to put the good ship SS Denmark back on course. Gradually though the dark princes of political arts began once again to weave their webs of deceit and lies and have begun to ensnare Nyborg. The two episodes contained two coup d’etat’s, one long, drawn out and carefully plotted. The other sharp and instant, with fatal consequences.

On the political front both episodes centred around the Labour Party, Nyborg’s partners in the coalition.

In the first episode we witness the slow lingering political regicide of Bjørn Marrot the Labour Party Leader and Foreign Minister. This tale has echoes of the change the UK’s Labour Party has gone through. Marrot was old school, an apprentice welder who had worked his way to the upper echelon’s of the Labour Party, his failing though was for what he had in political conviction he lacked in political finesse, he could almost have been former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. He simply was not ‘New’ Labour.

The party was being taken over by sharp suited career politicians, symbolised by the justice Minister, Troels Höxenhaven and they were keen for a party in their mold.

The plot started of with a series of leaks to the press about gaffes by Marrot, an interview with the BBC in English where he mixed his metaphors and created a new one – “Don’t shoot the parrot’, not knowing what a black tie dinner meant, and leaks about porn and mini bar drinks charged to the foreign ministry.

The moment of execution was left to the day of a seaside  cabinet summit that Nyborg had called to agree major changes to Denmark’s welfare state. One change in particular, early retirement seemed to be causing dissent in the Labour Party.

Nyborg needed unanimity from the cabinet in order to push through a controversial legislation, but every time Marrot thought he had got a Labour position he was being briefed against by party insiders.

At the summit it came to a head when Höxenhaven and his colleague Pernille Madsen openly disagreed with him. Marrot turned to his long-term ally Defence Minister Hans Christian Thorsen for support, and in a telling moment that support did not come.

Marrot exploded in rage at his supposed colleagues, but the deed was done and  a simple “e tu Thorsen” probably would have served.

The summit was cancelled and out of the embers of Marrot’s Leadership emerged the new Labour  leader a suave, smiling Höxenhaven.

The Princes of political dark arts however were not done. In season one current Ekspres newspaper editor Michael Laugesen was the head of the Labour party and his fall from grace was aided by Höxenhaven, a treachery he had not forgiven or forgotten. Laugesen was also an ally of Marrot all sufficient reason for him to have more than a passing interest in the turmoil in the Labour party.

Laugesen however is not a man who waits for things to happen, he makes things happen. There had long been whispers that Höxenhaven had a penchant for young men despite his marriage of 16 years and this was to prove to be the weapon of choice for Laugesen. He embedded a rent boy in the media team he had sent to cover the cabinet summit with a view to ensnaring Höxenhaven. It worked.

His original plan was to publish an expose written by Katrine Fønsmark in the newspaper, but both her and her editor Hanne Holm had reservations about how relevant an expose on a cabinet minister’s sexuality was. Laugesen argued that the issue was about trust but they remain unconvinced. As the saying goes if you got to do a job properly, you have got to do it yourself.

Cue a late night meeting between Laugesen and Höxenhaven in which copies of the pictures were handed over. I never liked the Höxenhaven character he seemed spineless and untrustworthy but at that moment when he realised everything, his personal and professional life was about to crash down around him, you would have to sympathise.

Shattered, Höxenhaven meets up with Nyborg to tender his resignation and the next day is found dead. He committed suicide using tables Nyborg kept in her office.

In a little moment that again shows the erosion of her wholesomeness, Nyborg agrees to have the source of the tablets covered up. A harmless coverup one might say, but it starts soemwhere.

Outside the political arena Birgitte gets to meet the new woman in ex-husband Philip’s life, Cecile Toft, Amazonian blonde, blue eyes, expert Mexican food cook and a pediatrician what’s not to like if you’re Philip and wants not to dislike if you are Birgitte.

The reality that her marriage is truly over pushes Birgitte into a moment of extreme emotional fragility and straight into the arms and bed of her chauffeur a moment of weakness that would come back to hunt her. I am not sure if it was intentional but the scene where the chauffeur is fixing her plumbing when she entices him is the ultimate parody of a 70′s porn film.

Katrine and Kasper Juul’s never quite ended relationship flickers back into life as they engage in a romantic tryst first at the cabinet summit and later back at Katrine’s flat but there is too much baggage from before and Kasper’s realises (or at least I think he does) that it is not going to work with Katrine. He is not ready to open up to her in the way she wants.

In a desperate move he announces he is cutting off all professional contact with her, but not before Katrine hands him one last bombshell, evidence that Laugesen set Höxenhaven up.

Nyborg confronts Laugesen with the information and demands change in the attitude of his paper to her government, relaxed and smarmy as ever Laugesen brings up ger romantic dalliance with her chauffeur. 1-0 to Laugesen methinks.

BBC4…Borgen hits Season 2 and is still brilliant.

8 Jan

I have finally caught up with BBC 4′s Borgen double header opening to season 2. Second seasons are always tricky, you have had a great first season and now have a reputation to live upto, something to be compared against.

Borgen did not disappoint, it was as good as it was last season. The political drama and backstabbing flowed as thickly, and the human drama that under pinned it was superbly acted as usual.

The first episode centered around Denmark’s involvement in Afghanistan. In the opening scene  we met a young Danish soldier about to go out on reconnaissance in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.  As Politicians are wont to do Birgitte Nyborg had popped in on a ‘meet the troops’ visit. The young squadie cheekily asked for a photograph with  the Prime Minister remarking how rare it was to have “babes” around camp.

That meeting set the scene for the episode as shortly after the photograph the Taliban launched an offensive killing eight Danish soldiers including the young soldier Nyborg had met and throwing her long-held policy aim to withdraw Denmark from the war into disarray.

Nyborg was now faced with three stark choices, withdraw and hand a political victory to the Taliban as well as upset Denmark’s allies, keep the military deployment with no change and face accusations that the soldiers are being abandoned to their fate, or strengthen the deployment and face accusations that she was escalating the war and possibly fracturing the ruling coalition.

Borgen on the surface is about Birgitte Nyborg, but it is really about a journey of discovery of two women Birgitte Nyborg and Katrine Fonsmark whose fate often intertwines with Nyborg’s and the debacle in Afghanistan once again brought their fates together.

Katrine was embedded with the Danish army at the time of the attack and was witness to its aftermath. On return to Denmark her boss and arch-enemy of the Prime Minister, Michael Laugesson, wanted to use the death of the soldiers to do a hatchet job on the Prime Minister.

Katrine is reluctant to do this and instead pushes for a human interest angle by focusing on the family of a dead soldier, which by coincidence turns out to the same soldier the Prime Minister met in Afghanistan.

Borgen is so well written that sometimes you forget that you are watching a foreign import, but other times you think really? When Katrine went to interview the dead soldier’s father her cold, pushy matter of fact manner was unusual particularly given that she is supposedly one of the more empathetic characters. I suspect even the sleaziest hack from a fleet street tabloid would have been more circumspect in those circumstances.

Ultimately it is the anguish of the bereaved father that resolves the Prime Minister’s dilemma and provides Katrine with the copy she needs for her paper.  A letter from his son sent in the event of his death reveals why he served in Afghanistan, and although his Father could not rationalise the reasons, that along with political realities sways the Prime Minister to increase Denmark’s commitment to the war, and the letter also provides Katrine with the perfect copy she was after.

The reason it did was all down to 89,000 children.

In the second episode of the double-header,  the European Union was the source of Nyborg’s problems. Denmark needed to nominate a new Commissioner, straight forward proposition you might think but not in the murky world of politics. Having to make that choice also laid bare how much Nyborg’s relationship with the man who was effectively her mentor, Bent Serjo, had deteriorated.

Bent had become increasingly critical of Nyborg’s policies, and her removing him from the cabinet last season had not helped matters. After another heated argument we see her berating him for not booking appointments with just like everyone else coming to see her. As her exasperation with Bent grew, a suggestion from one of the rising stars of her party, Jacob Fruse seemed to offer the perfect solution.

Fruse a man who reminds me of Boycie from Only Fools and Horses and therefore instantly untrustworthy suggested that Bent be offered the EU commissioner’s job. Shipping him off to Brussels was just the solution Nyborg needed, but there were problems. Bent did not want to go. He eventually came round but unexpectedly at a farewell party to mark the appointment he suffered a heart attack.

It turns out that Fruse had known Bent had a previous attack but neglected to tell the Prime Minister hoping that with Bent out of the way he could take a step closer to becoming Nyborg’s eventual successor. His Machiavellian plot was uncovered and he was dispatched (or should that be exiled) to Brussels for his sins.

Off the main story arc we saw the slow lingering death of Nyborg’s marriage, a reality she was struggling to come to terms with.

The suave but troubled Kasper Juul has a new girlfriend but in an inopportune moment refers to her as Katrine and to compound matters opts to celebrate Katrine’s birthday with her forcing his girl friend to cancel plans she’d made earlier. She seemed baffingly understanding about the whole thing.

Meanwhile Katrine’s relationship with her colleague Hanne Holm strengthened as Hannah revealed the hurt of her pretty non-existent relationship with her own daughter.

Roll on episode 3!

BBC4…Nordic Noir TV Fans..Borgen is back for Season 2

5 Jan

It is the depths of winter, the days are short and the nights long, what better time for our seasonal dip in the latest dark haunting drama from Scandinavia. Season 2 of Borgen is back on BBC4 on Saturdays at 9pm.

If you loved ‘The Killing’ (Forbrydelsen) couldn’t wait for your daily fix of ‘The Bridge’ (Broen) and find ‘Wallander’ unmissable then your are almost already a fan of ‘Borgen’. For those who aren’t here is a quick synospis of Season 1 from wikipedia.

With Danish elections to begin soon, Birgitte Nyborg, leader of the Moderate Party is interviewed by Katrine Fønsmark, a journalist for the broadcaster TV1. Both women are unknowingly connected by Nyborg’s media advisor, Kasper Juul, who is also Katrine’s ex-boyfriend. Katrine has been having an affair with Ole Dahl, the communications chief for Prime Minister Lars Hesselboe.

When Dahl dies of a heart attack whilst in bed with Katrine, she panics and contacts Kasper for help. While removing evidence from Dahl’s flat, Kasper comes across sales receipts showing that Hesselboe has made expensive personal purchases using his official credit card. He offers these to Nyborg as a possible bargaining chip for use in the upcoming general election. When Nyborg declines, Kasper gives it to opposition leader Michael Laugesen. After Laugesen reveals the information in a television debate, Nyborg deduces the source and fires Kasper.

Laugesen’s action backfires, however, and many voters reject both him and Hesselboe in favour of the minority parties, including the Moderates. This puts Nyborg in the running for prime minister, a development even she didn’t expect. Although the obvious choice for the office, Nyborg faces condescension and chauvinism from other party leaders, but is buoyed up by the support of her deputy, Bent Sejrø.

Laugesen refuses to support her as leader of a coalition government, but is undermined by his own resentful colleagues, who leak information that leads to his own resignation as party leader. With delicate navigation Nyborg is thus able to form a centre-left coalition government with the Labour and Green Parties, along with support from the far-left Solidarity Party. Laugesen is appointed head of the Ekspres tabloid newspaper, and uses his new position to become the government’s fiercest critic.

Nyborg continues to rely on Bent and her husband Philip for help making her premiership a success. She appoints a new P.R. assistant to replace Kasper, but he quickly proves disastrous during a TV interview with Laugesen. Nyborg re-hires Kasper, who is still troubled by his break-up with Katrine. Kasper learns from Katrine that she became pregnant by Dahl and had an abortion, becoming heartbroken when she begins a short relationship with her fitness instructor. He faces more problems when Laugesen writes a memoir revealing details about the personal lives of several politicians, including Kasper’s role in exposing Hesselboe’s receipts. Katrine realises that he took them from Dahl’s apartment and angrily confronts him.

Nyborg and Kasper manipulate the facts and dismiss Laugesen’s book as “gossip”.
As the parliament prepares to convene, Kasper struggles to write Nyborg’s opening speech. He half-heartedly flirts with Nyborg’s personal secretary, Sanne, who loses her job as a result. Meanwhile, Philip, unhappy with his own position, finally loses faith in his marriage with Nyborg when he is forced to resign as the CEO of a major electronics company to avoid a conflict of interest; he begins an affair with a recruitment consultant. Nyborg attempts to disguise their marital crisis by agreeing to a television documentary about her official and personal life, but calls it off when Philip, unable to stand the subterfuge, insists on a divorce. Katrine, learning that Kasper has obtained editorial control over the programme, resigns from her job with at TV1.

A poor showing in the polls results in Nyborg’s Labour allies approaching her to get a bigger share of Cabinet seats. They focus on Bent, who is obliged to resign as finance minister to make room for a Labour politician. Nyborg’s opening speech is a resounding success, but she is close to an emotional breakdown as the season ends.

The Bridge is in my opinion lighter than its compatriots being as it is focused on the politics, but it does have so fairly heavy emotional moments and definitely worth a watch.