Tag Archives: Michael Laugesen

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 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…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.