Borgen, produced by the broadcasting company behind The Killing, is a Danish political thriller in ten parts. The drama centers on Birgitte Nyborg, leader of the Moderate Party, as an unexpected turn of events places her in a position to become Denmark’s first female Prime Minister. The drama traces both what takes place in parliament and how this is reported by the media, focusing in particular on the television reporter Katrine FÃ¸nsmark.
Although the basis of the plot – Birgitte’s struggle to retain her honesty and ethics whilst being a strong leader of her party – gives it the potential to fall into clichÃ©, her personal drama is presented in a way that is original and convincing. Her closing statement at the end of a televised debate bears worrying resemblances to Nick Clegg’s performance before the 2010 election, but is saved by Sidse Babett Knudsen’s charisma in her role and the deftly scripted combination of almost unbelievable but heartwarming promises with some comparatively concrete criticisms of current politics.
Furthermore, although Birgitte Nyborg (unlike the heroines of similar dramas, such as Sarah Lund in The Killing and Bel Rowley in TheÂ Hour) has a functioning family life, the director’s portrayal of her happy home life is neither abbreviated (it does not appear to be there purely to prove that she has one) nor romanticised: just as much care is put into these scenes as into those set in Parliament, resulting in the creation of a character who, despite being such an impressive woman, does not alienate her audience. Knudsen is the leading light of the drama, seamlessly combining a politician who is brave enough to change her policy on live television with a forty-something woman whose skirts are getting too tight.
Some would criticise the drama for its omission of actual politics and its focus instead on political practice — presumably to avoid bias – and would argue that to give one without the other is automatically to give a partial view of the political world (we are essentially persuaded that Birgitte must be the right choice for Prime Minister not because of her values themselves, but simply because she sticks to those values). I have no real objection on this count as Birgitte and her unstated policies are fictional, and hypocrisy seems to me just as pertinent a focus as political values.