What is it about Danish thrillers…?

A scene from Borgen, now showing on BBC4

What is it that makes these Danish thrillers so good? First we had ‘The Killing’ with Sarah Lund that managed to achieve fame, not just for the acting and the plot, but for her Fair Isle like jumper. If you missed it get all 20 episodes on DVD now. The Killing 2 finished before Christmas and is probably available too. Now we have ‘Borgen’, started last Saturday on BBC4, and will be shown for four more weeks. Apparently it started with 600,000 viewers, more than ‘The Killing’. Billed as ‘a political thriller’ it didn’t sound too thrilling initially. But it is compelling and already addictive. Like ‘The Killing’ it is intelligent drama that makes you think. And although it is sub-titled, which means you have to keep your eyes on the screen, it doesn’t seem to matter.

'The Killing' previous Danish drama by the same makers as Borgen

The heroine, Borgen is the newly elected prime minister. Completely un-Thatcher like, she manages to operate in her own way. Although she does has an elderly male mentor who helps to keep her on track. He teaches her how to negotiate, for instance. I expect she may lose him once she’s more confident in her skin. Birgitte Borgen is young and attractive. She has a husband and young family. She takes time off to attend a birthday party. She owns up to mistakes and at the final pre-election debate she discards her prepared speech and speaks from the heart. She does conform to the norms of formal dress and is aware how severely judged women in public life tend to be, rejecting one outfit because it makes her look too fat. You do care about her, which make her exceptional as a politician.

Compared to ‘Above Suspicion’, three part Lynda La Plante series that started last night… Well there is little comparison. The Danes don’t go in for over-the-top gore and gruesomeness. Hitchcock like, they rather suggest horror. The title means ‘parliament’ and is how the Danes refer to their seat of power apparently. I don’t know anything about the Danish system but there were reflections of our own coalition government, intrigue in the corridors, and the role of spin doctors. What makes both Danish dramas appeal to me is the characterisation of women. Not just the female leads (who are very different) but other strong roles. You do get the impression that women are treated more fairly and Denmark is a more equal society. But it is fiction so who knows?

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