Pilou Asbæk

1864 E1-4 (BBC4)

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Having made its international reputation with acclaimed crime series including Borgen, Forbrydelsen and The Bridge, Danish public service broadcaster DR has set its sights even higher with the most expensive Danish TV production to date in the form of period drama 1864.

1864Foregoing the lingua franca of murder mysteries that has served DR so well up to now, this new eight-part miniseries has a much more intensely regional focus as it tells the story of the disastrous Second Schleswig War between Denmark and Prussia. Fired up by nationalistic fervour, the Danes attempted to annex the Duchy of Schleswig into their kingdom in breach of treaties with Prussia settling a previous conflict 15 years before. However they were no match for Otto von Bismarck who used the conflict to help set in motion the unification of Germany, while the Danes ended up losing a quarter of their land by the time the war ended. It was a blow to the Kingdom’s self-image and imperial aspirations from which the country has arguably never recovered to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

Lucy (2014) [DVD]

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Contains some spoilers

lucy1Back in the 1980s, Luc Besson was the epitome of French arthouse cool thanks to films like Subway, Nikita and Leon. Somewhere along the way however he’s become a marquee name for enjoyable but trashy international B-movies as producer of the likes of The Transporter, District 13, Taken and Lockout, with the crossover point being somewhere around The Fifth Element. Recently though he’s been getting back into the director’s seat on a more frequent basis and his latest offering in that capacity is Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson.

At the start Lucy seems to belong firmly in the trashy B-movie category, wasting no time to drop its titular character into the bloody hands of the Korean mob in Taipei thanks to being set up by her low-life boyfriend Richard (delightfully overplayed by Borgen’s Pilou Asbaek). What follows is a nightmarish roller coaster ride for Lucy who is forced to act as a drug mule and smuggle a bag of surgically-implanted contraband onto an international flight; only, the package ruptures in her stomach and floods her system with a massive overdose of consciousness-expanding chemicals that start to give her startling new abilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Borgen S3 E1-2 “A child of Denmark”/”The land is built on law” (BBC4)

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Contains spoilers for the first two episodes of season 3

The good news: Borgen is back! The bad news: the third series will be its last. The good news again: it’s better than ever.

There had been a few uneven patches in its first two series but overall I think it turned out rather tremendously. Tritely pigeon-holed as the “Danish West Wing” when it started, Adam Price’s Borgen stood out chiefly thanks to the lead performance of Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg who at the beginning of the first season became the first female Prime Minister of Denmark and thereafter held together a precarious coalition government over the course of the next two years. This meant that Borgen had a particularly topical appeal to British audiences in 2010 and 2011 as the UK happened to find itself under its first proper coalition government since 1945: seeing how Nyborg keeps the factions together and achieves things in the precarious situation became almost a how-to manual for Britons in understanding our own new political reality.

In 2013, Borgen continues to remain scarily relevant and sharply responsive to what’s going on in the real world. Moving on two years from season 2, we now find that Nyborg lost the last election and subsequently resigned as party leader to become a famous and highly paid international public speaker (shades of Tony Blair?) and a member of many important company boards. Her children seem happy, she’s on good terms with ex-husband Philip Christensen (Mikael Birkkjær), and she has a new architect boyfriend from Britain (played by Monarch of the Glen star Alastair Mackenzie.) Being out of politics agrees with her: even her gorgeous new penthouse apartment is a world away from the older, cramped family home she shared with Philip and the children as Prime Minister. In fact the whole show looks glossier, more modern, more confidently stylish and creative all round. Read the rest of this entry »