Does power corrupt?

This is my review of Borgen – Series 1 [DVD] [2010].

Borgen is an absorbing Danish political drama in which each episode focuses on a different issue, as we trace the path of Birgitte Nyborg, the party leader who unexpectedly finds herself in the position to form a coalition government. Bearing in mind that the Danes are used to this form of government, the wheeler-dealing and spinning involved suggests a certain tongue-in-cheek mix of humour and cynicism over their political system. To be honest, I am not sure "Borgen" is a good advertisement for coalitions!

The series introduces non-Danes to some interesting problems, such as relationships with Greenland which has clearly suffered socially from a leaching of its population and a lack of local opportunity. There are also the more familiar topics of sexual equality for women, reducing pollution, corruption in high places, and attempts to control the media.

The characters are mainly strongly developed, with an on-off relationship between two ambitious, attractive characters: on one hand the cynical spin doctor Kasper who is too good for Nyborg not to employ, and on the other the photogenic TV presenter Katrine who cares deeply about free speech and exposing the truth, except, of course in her personal life.

At first, Nyborg's family life seems too good to be true: a handsome husband who has put his career on hold to be the prime carer of their two children. I feared for a few episodes that the series would degenerate into an admittedly well-acted and entertaining soap, but the later episodes gradually inject a darker side, as Nyborg is perhaps inevitably changed by the experience of power. We see how her dedication combined with growing confidence and skills in politicking at work impact on her personal life, where by turns negotiating and acting tough to get one's way are not always either appropriate or sufficient.

My single reservation is disbelief over the lack of domestic support employed by Nyborg to help with her children and running the home. Many working couples with much lesser jobs would have a nanny, and you could say that the Nyborgs' failure to sort this out is implausible and smacks of incompetence.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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