Cordon: Virus Pandemic in New Belgium Thriller

A sneeze, a kiss, a hug – interactions we don’t think about in great detail. Why should we? Well a new Dutch Thriller ‘Cordon’ will have you reaching for the hand gel and hoping that man you were talking to on the tube didn’t cough directly onto your face (although knowing the London Underground…).

Last weekend BBC4 premiered ‘Cordon’ a new Dutch thriller produced by Eyeworks for VTM. The series begins with an Afghan man being taken out of a container after traveling illegally to Belgium. Upon visiting NIIDA, the National Institute for Infectious Diseases, he is given the all clear and sent away. However, it’s not long after he leaves that his doctors are quarantined after showing signs of a rare disease. The government is then forced to lead a police investigation to find the man and everyone he has been in contact with in fear that the disease is easily spread and, at worst, fatal. From then on a 48 hour quarantine is put in effect in the area in hopes of containing the outbreak.

As we know from countless other films and TV series, trying to contain an outbreak like this is hopeless. Throughout the first episode we see how easy it is to come into contact with someone with the disease via a kiss, a hug or even just brushing past them in a crowd. Essentially we see the media trying to play down a mass panic whilst the police are well aware the pressing issue. From then on its “two arm lengths apart” to all possibly infected Dutch.

One of the storylines also focuses on a group of school children and their teacher Katja (Verlee Baetens) on an educational tour of NIIDA. After a short trip looking at bits of diseased flesh in jars, an alarm sounds and they’re sent away for an apparent safety test. Unfortunately for them it isn’t a test. As soon as they are seated back on the bus an armed guard escorts them off and back into the halls of the facility. After a few panicked phone calls it’s clear to Katja that it may not be a small precautionary measure.

An important sub-plot to the story is Lex (Tom Dewispelaere) and Jana (Liesa Van der Aa) whom have just moved in together in the middle of Antwerp. Lex is one of the leading police officers helping with rounding up the suspected contaminated citizens. From his point of view we see the government’s reaction and response to this Virus. More importantly how they plan to contain it in such a short period of time.

We also follow several other narratives such as a schoolboy in the school when the quarantine is announced and a Journalist wanting to report the story online and not getting the opportunity when the first signs began. Although these are only minor characters they help build a bigger picture on how the epidemic is being shown via the press and from the viewpoint of a schoolchild.

Unfortunately, cordon is not an original idea – not even close. 28 days later is the instigator for the surge in these kinds of contaminated zombie films and does it better even after 12 years. The first episode is slow but is something to be expected in this genre. When we deal with an outbreak like this the primary narrative is to show ordinary people doing painfully ordinary things. It then has to incite that panic by building up the pandemic in later episodes. It’s a format that is easily translatable to any other country, and even now CW are filming their own version ‘Containment’ set in Atlanta. Although it doesn’t break any boundaries and do anything unique, it does it well which is perhaps why It has succeeded where others have failed. A good cast and varied amount of storylines keeps Cordon interesting and the allure of a mass panic in coming episodes will keep me watching.

Cordon is now available on BBC iPlayer or BBC4 on Saturdays 9pm.

SVT and Canal+: Two European Broadcasters Commission Jour Polaire / Midnight Sun

Swedish broadcaster SVT and French premium cable channel Canal+ have released information today on the joint venture for a cross-country project called Jour Polaire or Midnight Sun. Much like The Bridge that featured Swedish and Danish broadcasters creating a singular product, Midnight Sun intends to become the first ‘Nordic-Noir’ Thriller TV series crossing between France and Sweden. Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, writers and directors of The Bridge, are set to direct the first season of 8 episodes.

Featuring Leïla Bekhti and Gustaf Hammarsten (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the Series follows the gruesome murder of a French citizen in a Northern town in Sweden prompting an investigation by both countries. Delving deeper and deeper it appears the crime is no accident, but a display of a intent from a serial killer on the loose.

SVT’s Head of Drama Chrsitian Wikander said:

Midnight Sun is the result of several years of collaboration between SVT, Canal+, Nice Drama, and Atlantique Productions. It is important to try to find a story that is relevant to both channels. In this case it is both a story and a theme you have not seen before. However, it is still based in crime. But there is something unique, not least because of Bjorn and Måns’ way of telling it. It is also unusual that it is partly set in Sami culture.”

The multilingual crime/thriller is currently filming in Paris and expected to be broadcast early 2016. As of yet no mention of exporting to the UK or US.

Deutschland 83: Stylistic German Spy Thriller Hits the US

1983: Two juxtaposing sides of Germany are at the brink of a Nuclear War. Ignited by Ronald Reagan’s totalitarian speech, America’s stance on Communism, and the increased threat of Western Germany, The East were having to use covert espionage in order to ensure the safety of their state and the continued spread of socialism. The Cold War was colder than ever and the divide in the country was stark in contrast. Whilst the democratic West thrived as one of the economic superpowers of Europe, The East’s GDP and living wages were in a rapid decline. Deutschland 83 is a humorous glimpse into these two sides through a young Eastern comrade named Martin Rauch.

This coming-of-age spy thriller see’s Martin (Jonas Nay) sent on a mission to the West to be the aid of General Edel, a close ally of NATO and America, and report back any information that will help keep East Germany safe. Under the promise of a life saving operation for his mother, Martin is tasked with finding important files – brought to Germany by American General Arnold Jackson – as they may prove to be the key to preparing against an imminent attack.

The pacing is much quicker than most Eastern European programming which I believe is why it was able to be shown on a US channel. Through montages and smaller compiled scenes (for example the death of the real Mortitz Stamm) it is able to stylistically condense narrative exposition. Although it simplifies some prior historical references, I believe that it does it well in order to press the story forward and keep the pace which can often be pivotal for a exported European programme.

Whilst most broadcasters would conventionally turn this into a dark war drama about the struggles of Eastern Germany under a totalitarian rule, this show has an upbeat comedy aspect subverting the tired old assumptions of Germany. Martin’s lackluster spy skills provide a hearty laugh and periods of mistakes provide a much needed laugh in dire situations. However don’t get this mixed up with a sitcom – this is a thriller with a sharp, witty, almost bleak humour that will keep you entertained.

In regards to making a clear comparison between the two Germany’s, I don’t think the East and West are a complete Juxtaposition because we don’t see the poverty that we imagine. But – with the knowledge of life in the West – I think people would question their beliefs when faced with their prosperous neighbours. But even in this so-called “divide”, Martin’s house – shared with his mother – has many of the household items you would see in a house on the other side of the border. I think this unclear division works well but will change over the next 8 episodes to a more certain belief that a Democratic Germany is superior.

Even with this knowledge, some Eastern Germans still believe that Socialism is the way forward for a fair and affluent state. When we meet Tobias Tischbier, an East German spy working as a Professor, he is appalled by the governmental working of Democracy, even saying “Western Governments want to keep their citizens fat, lazy and complacent” – perhaps an ironic statement as far as Communism is concerned. But it’s this deep belief, even in the face of the growing success of Eastern Germany, which is dangerous. Perhaps Martin has the same attitude, but his reasoning is to keep his family safe rather than to undermine and attack the West. Martin is more of a sheep – doing what he is told without thinking too much about the overall consequences.

80’s Germany has rarely been introduced as a Drama on our screens; If it has then it’s been from the perspective of the Americans. However what you find in this programme is deep Historical Realism with locations and events key to the Cold War preserved around this fictitious story. We also see real historic footage used for exposition like, for example, the opposing speeches by the Eastern and Western leaders urging disarmament – giving the audience that much needed exposition.

The mise-en-scene is incredible in Deutschland and is one of its best assets. One scene I loved was Martin’s first adventure into the West. We notice the colour from the signs in the stores, the police officers green sweaters, and even the stark primary coloured fruit in the supermarket and the perfectly stacked shelves with row after row of the same brightly coloured jars. They’ve even paid attention to Berlin Wall-era fonts and created signs and labels using these clearly distinguishable typefaces. This is one of the greatest strengths of Deutschland 83 – we can immerse ourselves in this period drama, believe that this is how it all looked, and not be underwhelmed by the mise-en-scene. It does as good a job, dare I say it, as Mad Men.

Another key scene for graphic designers and font enthusiasts is the montage of Martin becoming a spy. The scene is laden with East and West comparisons – from the name of Plastik to the the new idea of a Western Supermarkt – alongside their respective typefaces. The art designs of food boxes, hair-spray, washing powder and drinks bottles are enough for a graphic design enthusiast to start a Cold War scrapbook. You can also see the differences between the fonts, especially in the FRG’s products, which creatively flourished with the influence of new technologies and American packaging.

Overall Deutschland 83 is a stylish period drama showing us a new perspective on The Cold War and the relationship between the GDR and the FRG. Ideologies between the two countries are so vast and translates well in this drama. What makes this a great success is it’s style; It’s ability to create a historical drama which feels innovative. All of it’s props feel as if they are taken straight from the eighties. Even the sets look exactly how I imagine they would look 30 years ago. The storyline is full of historical references and Deustchland ’83 twists these and uses them to ingrain the drama is social realism. Jonas Nay’s performance is outstanding – blending Socialist confidence with teenage ineptitude inducing a dry comedic undertone. After only one episode I feel as if this drama will be unrivalled in stylistic quality, but sense the amount of viewers will be low because of its anonymity in the US. It needs to be drafted to the UK for Sky Arts or BBC4 to gain the viewership it deserves.

Currently Deutschland 83 is available to watch Wednesday’s 11/10C on SundanceTV.

New 4World Drama service to launch this Autumn

Channel 4 as announced via its press website that it will launch an all new online channel with the working title 4World Drama. The new service will be available this year on All4 (the 4oD replacement) and be acquiring not only Danish and Swedish dramas but a whole bundle of Dramas from around the world.

This channel seeks to capatalise on the recent success of ‘Nordic-Noir’ programs on channels such as BBC4 and Sky Arts. Although they have the better relationship with DR, the market for foreign dramas is very much still in play especially in regard to other European programming. Channel 4’s Chief Executive David Abraham said:

“We’ve seen from the response to titles like The Returned on Channel 4 that there’s a real appetite for quality international drama from UK viewers – but only a small selection of foreign-language series have been able to get a UK broadcast partner. This new service will be a fantastic showcase for creative talent around the world and an innovative addition to All 4.”

It’s also interesting to note that not only will these new programmes be available online, but a great collection of previous Dramas will be stored online for ‘box-set viewing’. Not only are we getting a wave of new European excellence but we are able to catch up on the series that have been highly successful in their respective country. Right now information is scarce although I believe that it will provide those who are interested in foreign programmes a whole new archive in which to delve into.

BBC’s The Night Manager: New Cast Members Announced

The Night Manager, a novel by John le Carré, is to be adapted by BBC1 staring such actors as Tom Hiddleston, High Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander, Elizabeth Debicki and Susanne Bier. Co-Produced by AMC and The Ink Factory, the adaption of the 1993 Novel is scheduled for release early 2016 and will be the first adaption of a le Carré novel in over 20 years.

Yesterday the BBC announced three new actors to join the cast: Russel Tovey (Being Human, Him & Her), Alistair Petrie (Utopia) and Douglas Hodge (The Town).

The synopsis is as follows:

“The eagerly anticipated series follows former British soldier Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston) who is recruited by an intelligence operative named Burr (Colman) to navigate the shadowy recesses of Whitehall and Washington where an unholy alliance operates between the intelligence community and the secret arms trade. To infiltrate the inner circle of lethal arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper (Laurie), which includes girlfriend Jed (Debicki) and an associate named Corcoran (Hollander), Pine must himself become a criminal.”

Russel Tovey is a brilliant addition to the cast, not only because of his links with other BBC3 programmes, but for his range of acting credits over the last few years. His last role for the BBC was on Sherlock alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman last year.

Alistair Petrie is more well known on Broadway than television – earning Tony and Olivier awards for his performance for La Cage Aux Folles.

Douglas Hodge, although not as award ladden as his co-stars, is currently starring in the US/British drama Penny Dreadful.

First trailer for the Icelandic series ‘Trapped’

A few days ago I revealed that BBC4 had acquired two more international dramas. Today the first trailer for Trapped by Baltasar Kormakur was released via Vimeo.

From first impressions Trapped is a characteristic Nordic-Noir police drama but with the desolate feel of a show like Fargo. Being from Iceland, it’s a culture we have not been introduced to before and British viewers have certainly not seen any of it’s media before.

As far as trailers go it’s a rather racey, uncensored trailer. Not only revealing key parts of plot, but including burnt bodies in the snow and voyeur sexual scenes. Trapped is not out to fail, and undertaking such a huge project for such a small broadcaster is commendable and extraordinary. The production looks fantastic with a clear technologically qualitative product. The images look crisp and clean with the trademark saturated look of Danish dramas which is what we have come to expect.

Like before Kormakur has not given details to when the show will be released. However filming began in May and the working release is roughly scheduled for the end of the year.

Humans vs Real Humans: A Comparison and Reflection

It’s been at least a year since I heard the Swedish TV show Äkta människor (Real Humans) was going to be adapted for a British audience. I was excited by the prospect – British broadcasters have great success with dramas and with a distinctly English feel that is undoubtedly unique. Black Mirror is the staple of Channel 4’s drama programming, being praised for it’s extraordinary sc-fi dystopian storylines laden with clear themes opposing the robotic hegemony. And with the success it’s had, their dramas are becoming increasingly reliant on those darker aspects of human nature and mental illness. For example, Southcliffe about an army veteran dealing with mental illness; and This is England set in the 1980’s at the height of the ‘skin head’ movement and the start of the racist political group ‘National Front’. But with those series comes a hefty amount of British talent including Director Shane Meadows (Dead man’s shoes) and writer Charlie Brooker (Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe). So can Humans live up to the reputation that Real Humans has built? And what changes do we see compared to the Swedish version?

Firstly the plot of Humans is pretty much identical. As a summary, ‘synths’ are robots that were created to help humans with various mind-numbing tasks so we can spend our time doing something else (like reading, working, or generally sitting around and doing nothing). The main plot focuses around the Hawkins family who have just purchased a Synth (naming her Anita) to help around the house. On the return of Laura, the Woman of the household, she is not best pleased with her perceived ‘replacement’. A few strange occurrences later and Laura is concerned about Anita not being a tin-can robot that obeys her every whim. We also delve into the story of George and Odi, an old man and is Synth who had been together for 6 years – which is much longer than recommended. A malfunctioning Odi attacks an employee at a supermarket and is declared broken. Taking him home, George then tries to fix his best friend hoping he is not beyond repair. The changes that we see are that the character Roger has been dissolved in Humans and included in the detective character to quicken the pace of the show. not necessarily a negative change as long as the storyline of the political fight against Synths is included. Leo and his band of ‘Sentient’ Synths have been introduced however from episode 1 it’s unclear to us how their plot will develop.

Aesthetically, there are some changes in the British version. ‘Synths’ (or HuBots in the Swedish version) don’t have the smooth complexion synonymous with Äkta människor which is disappointing. As well as this, having only a few models of HuBots gives us the perception that these are built in bulk and not actually Human at all. In Humans they are all built so they look different for each customer which for me is missing the point of the Synth. When you buy a manufactured item you know that the other million of that product are exactly the same. There might be some slight change in colour or model but in essence they are selling the same function. Regardless, It’s reassuring to see Gemma Chan (who plays Anita) play a Synth perfectly and keeping a faultlessly still face during all of her closeups. Will Tudor (Odi) – who looks identical to his Swedish counterpart – also plays a Synth brilliantly and keeps the smilling, joyous (and somewhat confused) character true to its roots. Simon (Rick in Swedish) who is the Synth physiotherapist to Jill has rather big boots to fill. In Real Humans he has a big role to play in the story and to be able to ‘out-act’ Johannes Kuhnke might well be an impossible task.

Thematically it’s much the same – technology is at the cusp of making humans redundant just like in some aspects of our own lives. We haven’t got into that enough in Humans however I hope it plays a large role in defining why Synths are such a risk to the population. Although the threat of them remains in Humans, Anita seems to infer that she is evil and all Synths will turn out evil. But that is simply not true. Anita was part of a rebel group but she is not evil nor would she purposely hurt any human. This isn’t conveyed clearly enough and the idea of a ‘sentient’ Synth is not dealt with as well as the Swedish version. They should have a range of different personalities, characteristics, mannerisms and emotions just as we have, however the main idea presented is that they would all rise up and overthrow us if they became sentient. Leo’s HuBot group are well defined in that regard, unlike in the British version.

What Humans has done to great effect is introducing a multi-platform advertising campaign. Over the past few weeks, channel 4 has been advertising Synths during commercial breaks in order to create hype around the series. It’s trying to integrate the storyline into your own life in hopes that you will invest more in the story – which I think works fantastically. It would also be interesting to know how many people took no notice of the advert and – more importantly – who immediately Googled ‘where to buy a Synth’. The show even went as far as renting a store on Regents Street and decorating the outside with posters advertising the new opening of ‘Persona Synthetics’. The effort to blur the lines between TV and reality is commendable, and with 4.3 million views for it’s first episode It would appear the campaign succeeded.

One of the scenes I’m glad Humans kept was the supermarket scene with George and Odi. The shot of Odi lying down in apricot jam is supposed to symbolise blood – which in Georges mind is exactly what it is. He knows Odi’s just a Synth, but the personal relationship is much greater than that of other consumers – even to the extent were he calls Odi ‘son’. I think it’s an important scene in order to represent a wide variety of people and their opinions on Synths and whether they are inane robots or friendly companions.

To a lesser extent, Humans falls a little short of the mark. A few poor casting choices and scraping of scenes leaves it less in-depth than Real Humans. I also find the choice of ‘rebel’ Synths poor. None of the characters have been developed in the first episode which leaves me wondering why I care that they’re kidnapped at all. Channel 4 have just as much time (if not more) than the Swedish version yet insist on turning two characters into one and replacing important scenes with less dialogue and exposition. Yet, with all of this negative I still find it an entertaining watch. A British version is culturally relevant to us and adds to the realism the program is trying to convey. But if you don’t mind subtitles then watch Äkta människor. I believe it is much better and without the foreboding apocalypse that Humans is trying to pedal with every long 1,000 yard stare and mysterious non-diegetic sound effect.

BBC4’s new acquisitions: Follow The Money and Trapped

“We need to reinvent the way we tell stories. Now we have to do something different to The Killing or Borgen; we need to go down new paths,”

A somewhat controversial quote – made by DR’s Director of Fiction Piv Bernth – to justify the new crime thriller Follow The Money. To many British lovers of Borgen and The Bridge, this statement is no welcome change in programming. The door ajar, DR is welcoming a new ideology to Danish drama TV and perhaps even a lax attitude to it’s synonymous female heroins. Whilst we all realise the importance of the ‘Nordic-Noir’ approach perhaps invented by DR I don’t imagine a total abandonment of the genre.

Follow The Money is a corporate thriller centring around an environmental CEO and a dead body found by one of his windfarms and will feature Dogme 95 veteran actors Thomas Bo Larsen and Nikolaj Lie Kass. It’s not been announced yet when it will air however the planned date is around January 2016.

RUV, a relatively unknown broadcaster outside of Iceland, have developed a new crime/detective series to be shown on BBC4 at the end of this year. Trapped will be directed by Iceland’s top filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur and be set in Iceland after the discovery of a body found in the freezing waters. Kormakur said recently in an interview: “I am looking forward to putting a new spin on the Scandinavian crime genre for audiences around the world…” It will be interesting how successful this series will be especially with it not being released by DR1.

Although Iceland has an everlasting tie with Denmark, the allure of an Icelandic series seems to pique my interest. Not much is known about the series (or not that I can find) so the premise is still rather unknown. However we do see Icelandic-American actor Ólafur Darri Ólafsson star alongside Danish actor Bjarne Henriksen. Hopefully the Icelandic talent of writing and storytelling – originating with the Sagas of the Icelanders 1,000 years ago – will help Kormakur’s series exceed those of it’s Danish cousins.

The Legacy Season 2: Return to Grønnegaard

Death, drugs, adultery, art theft, Thai jail: No this isn’t a combination of tales from hunter S. Thompson’s life, rather a summary of the last season of Denmark’s The Legacy (arvingerne). A somewhat welcome change to the ever popular Danish Crime Dramas, The Legacy dealt with the gronnegaard family and the gronnegaard estate left by their late bohemian artist mother. This quickly become a source of conflict between the half dozen children who all wanted the mansion and grounds for various reasons. These contrasting views and ideologies between the children is perhaps one of the most fundamental parts of the story and why it was so popular in Denmark and Britain. It’s refreshing to have a show that focuses on these characteristics and allow the actors to fully immerse in a role and give amazing performances, especially when most have been working in theatre for much of their career. So with the premiere of Season two coming this weekend I thought I would just take the time to write a brief analysis of the episode and give you my first impressions.

Season two picks up one year later to Signe holding a baby who we find out is Thomas’s and Isa’s baby Melody. Whilst they prepare the ritual they have for all of the baby’s of the family we find out that Gro has been making sculptures – under her mother’s name – to gain enough money to free Emil from the thai prison and bring him back home. Fredrik has also moved out of their old house (perhaps due to financial difficulties) putting a strain on his wife and children. Most importantly we see Isa struggling to cope with her new baby and the change in her bohemian lifestyle causing her to unitentionally drop Melody in the lake during the ritual.

This first episode seems to be about re-uniting the family for the ‘baptism’ and bringing normality to all the brother and sisters and all the nieces and nephews. But whilst it does bring them together, it feels different because of the problems and arguments in season 1 that have obviously not been resolved fully. Even conversation between Fredrik and Signe are bathed in awkwardness. Not to forget Emil’s incarceration in Thailand which is a constant struggle for him and Gro. So this season I think we can expect more hardships and issues that will push the family even more apart. it’s a shame but the series is an evolution of the family so you can’t expect everything to be the same as it once was. There might be some reviewers who think that it would be a shame to have another season, as it would not compare to this one. But don’t judge one episode dear viewer. The Legacy is a slow paced drama that is perhaps even slower than The Killing. Don’t expect to be wowed after one episode so just sit back, watch, and wait. Soon enough you will be hooked.

1864: Denmark’s answer to stagnant British period dramas.

Over-saturation of period dramas on British TV is quickly becoming an issue. Since the surprising popularity of Downton Abbey and its remarkable achievement winning a Golden Globe and a Primtetime Emmy award, broadcasters are looking for the next pre-war, upper-class, old colonial masterpiece to break through the international market. However, there are too many similarities in historical setting, story, and character narratives; World War Two, although the most important part of British history, has become the most over-used period in TV and film. Exceptions to this do occur – such as BBC1’s Parades End – but a move away from the years 1939-1945 is favorable if not a necessity for creating new innovative programming. With BBC4’s strong relationship with Danish drama TV in recent years (Borgen and The Bridge both a hit with British viewers) it was only a matter of time till we get our first big-budget historical drama. 1864 is that drama, a 35 million dollar epic created by Ole Bornedal in association with DR1, featuring a cast of veteran Danish actors following the war between Denmark and Prussia.

1864 is the story of the German/Danish war over Schleswig and whether it should be part of Denmark or Prussia. The catalyst for this comes from Denmark and the Nationalist movement created by certain ministers to unify the country and to “re-unite” the Kingdom. But the focus is really Peter and Laust, two brothers from Denmark, who enlist in army and are involved in every conflict throughout the period. Furthermore, it focuses on the complex love they both have for their friend Inge and her struggle to keep her deeper love for Laust secret. In turn this is told in the modern day through Inge’s diary found by a young Woman called Claudia in the derelict home of Laust’s ageing great grandson.

Episode one opens to the present day and a class being taken on a fieldtrip to Dybbøl, the area where some of the bloodiest battles of the war took place. A day-dreaming student called Claudia (who is our protagonist for the present day) looks up at the sky and the scene transitions into a farm in Denmark 1851 and the inseparable brothers Peter and Laust as children. Watching the men come home from the first Prussian/Danish conflict, they eagerly await their fathers return from battle. Focusing on soldiers like Didrich and politicans like Bishop Monrad we are given the overall view of the war and the opinion from both the upper and lower class on the state of European poltics. The series is partly narrated by Inge, commenting mostly on the depravities of the war and also on certain people in the story. These give insight into the minds of characters, especially the crazed Monrad, stating “Even the strongest among us sometimes feel alone like weak and whimpering children, or like bizarre demons”. It ends with Peter and Laust both playing in the garden as if there is a war, where Peter cries at the fake death of his brother. A dramatic scene to distinguish both brothers personalities. The next episode takes place in 1864 and is the beginning of the brothers enrollment in the army.

Focusing on two separate periods addresses the slow pace that can be a make-or-break feature with dramas, especially when keeping the attention of younger viewers. 1864 does this extremely well. The pacing is brilliant and the present day also has validity to the story providing details and vital information in piecing together not only the war, but the family after Peter and Laust went to war. The two brothers relationship is one of the greatest parts of this drama. The theme of love is prominent is an aspects of 1864, from the nationalists love of Denmark to the brothers love of Inge and to deprive the show of that would leave it void. As well as that, mental illness is seen many times throughout the series from dealing with mental grandeurs of pride with Monrad to dealing with PTSD with Claudia’s mother adding to the overall story of warfare in modern history.

The war scenes are hauntingly realistic in 1864 and CGI is used sparingly in smaller battles e.g. sword fights are well rehearsed bringing a sense of claustrophobic realism to the show. When the cannons are introduced by the Prussians later on the sound of the cannonballs piercing the air and landing in the dugouts is aerie, balanced well with the silent cries of the soldiers being struck. It emulates the feeling of the soldiers during that rush of adrenaline in bouts of danger such as that and evokes somewhat of the same emotion in the viewer. Although this isn’t a new concept it is executed to a high standard.

Some of the best actors in Denmark have been cast in 1864 such as Pilou Asbæk (Kasper in Borgen) who plays the cowardly captain Dedrich and Søren Malling (Jan Meyer in The Killing) who plays the mytique gypsy soldier. Pilou’s rendition of Dedrich is probably my favorite. He creates a scared, feeble officer promoted for his wealth and in the battlefield cowards behind the front line with a bottle of whiskey always in hand. His blind jealousy of Peter and Laust is perpetuated in war forcing them into life threatening situations in the hope they don’t go back home to Inge. Pilou is fully convincing in this role often giving brilliant performances – even in the first episode his argument with his Father conveys a scared and broken man spurring the voice of Inge to proclaim he has a ‘broken soul’. Søren does just as well, utilising his trademark ‘glare’ to instill a sense of mystery in his character. Although I think the gypsy mystic role is unnecessary in this drama (and many agree with me) Søren does a great job of creating a confident leader in a war filled with inexperience.

Denmark has gifted us another top quality drama programme here on par with that of its predecessors. But the perception of the war and the anonymity of the battles outside of Denmark gives an international product that is innovative and educational. The oxymoron of the ‘new period’ drama seems absurd but explains 1864 perfectly. DR has learnt from its many popular dramas and much of the technical production is same, but the quality of the themes and characters has excelled this above any other that has been before. The budget has allowed a ‘Hollywood-esque’ set fully immersing any viewer into the universe that Peter and Laust occupy. To sum up in a sentence – “Britain has Downton Abbey, America has Band of Brothers and Denmark has 1864.”