DVD Review: Seaside Hotel – Season One (Badehotellet)

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A period drama starring The Killing‘s Bjarne Henriksen has become an unexpected hit, proving that Danish TV has more to offer than a continuous stream of crime shows.

Series creators Hanna Lundblad and Stig Thorsboe worked on Krøniken (Better Times), a mid-noughties programme that focused on two families alongside the development of Danish broadcasting up until the 1970s. Keen to work on another historical based show they drew inspiration from the UK drama Upstairs Downstairs. The pair decided to use the setting of a beach hotel after reading a newspaper article about coastal resorts during the interwar period.

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Planned to run for five seasons, Seaside Hotel is a Downtown Abbey style show that mixes romance, tragedy and comedy as it follows the lives of the affluent and serving classes from 1928 through to 1932. From the giddy heights of the Jazz Age to the depths of the Great Depression, the personal lives of staff and tourists are transformed by events far beyond Denmark’s borders.

During the Summer of 1928, Europe was still healing after the trauma of World War 1. Within a year the world would face a financial crisis that paved the way for a second global conflict. In the first season, a group of holidaymakers descend on a northern coastal resort seemingly intoxicated by misguided beliefs in a future free of conflict. Oblivious to the forces that would soon change their lives the wealthy patrons of this resort celebrate their holidays with reckless abandon.

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Deliberately paralleling the current economic crisis with events from eighty-nine years ago the screenwriters are discretely commentating on the profligacy and inequalities that brought misery to millions and allowed extremist beliefs to flourish.

Meticulous in attention to detail, costume and set designers have taken great care in recreating the golden age of seaside hotels. Unable to find an existing hotel which would be available for many months of filming the producers constructed a detailed exterior set in a field. With the addition of some sand dunes and computer generated imagery, a highly effective illusion was created convincing viewers that they had been transported to a real seaside hotel.

A significant gamble by its broadcast network, DR. Seaside Hotel represents an attempt to broaden the range of home grown series and demonstrate that Denmark has more to offer than Nordic Noir.

Seen by 57 percent of the Danish TV audience, at the time of writing work has begun on the fifth and final series. Subtitled versions of the first two seasons are available on DVD.

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Each series focuses on the characters’ lives in a specific year. Tonally very different from Matador, this version of Danish history mixes broad comedy with moments of intimate tragedy. Through the prism of the past, the writers provide a subtle commentary which suggests we have not learnt from the past mistakes of history.

Scrupulously researched, Seaside Hotel is a brilliantly sketched account of false optimism. This warm, witty, and moving series is worth tracking down.

Seaside Hotel – Season One is available to order from Amazon


DVD Review – Matador Kollektionen 1929-1947

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For a generation, Matador is the most fondly remembered series on Danish television. A generously budgeted period drama that followed the lives of people in the fictional town of Korsbæk between 1929 and 1947. Against a backdrop of rivalries and class conflict , the series dramatized key moments of national history that were still within living history.

Taking its name from the Danish version of the board game Monopoly, Matador was created by Lise Nørgaard. A journalist and novelist in addition to a screenwriter, she drew from her own experiences of living through The Great Depression wartime occupation to create a show loosely inspired by the British series Upstairs Downstairs. The template of a relatively self contained community adjusting to changes in society against the backdrop of turbulent historical episodes has recently been dusted down and used in Badehotellet (Seaside Hotel) with press and the public commenting on the parallels between the two series.

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Travelling salesman Mads Andersen-Skjern (Jørgen Buckhøj) arrives in Korsbæk with his son and soon sees scope to expand his business interests. A rigid social order and refusal to embrace social and economic opportunities has left the town looking like a relic from the nineteenth century. Andersen-Skjern’s plans for a new clothes shop stocking the latest lines is seen as a threat to the town’s traditions. Local banker, Hans Christian Varnæs (Holger Juul Hansen) refusal to finance the venture ignites a fued which will span decades and force friends and family members to choose sides.

Denied funds to establish a new emporium the merchant refuses to be beaten by this rejection and strengthens his resolve to secure financing for this venture.

Tradition and family loyalty are challenged by modernity alongside the threats of wider social and political changes in the wake of the Wall Street Crash and war in Europe.

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Despite only running for twenty four episodes, the series continues to resonate in contemporary Danish society. An estimated one in four Danish viewers is reported to have watched at least two repeat screenings. In 2011 the thirtieth anniversary of the series’ launch was marked by the publication of a book covering every every conceivable detail of the production history and packed with reminiscences from cast members. This was followed by an exhibition of surviving props and costumes by Film Nordisk.

Prior to the launch of a repeat in the spring of 2012 it was revealed that DVD sales were in the region of 3.6 million. Despite the success of VHS and DVD releases, forty per cent of the nation were willing to tune in and catch the seventh airing for this chronicle of key moments in recent Danish history. This rerun proved so popular the main rival station hastily rescheduled its flagship programming to avoid being annihilated in the ratings.

With each repeat Matador gains a new generation of fans who are possibly able to connect stories told by their grandparents with plot-lines or set-pieces. This tale of class conflict and modern Denmark’s birth pangs continues to provide comfort for fans of nostalgia and unites the nation with each transmission.

A subtitled DVD is available to order via Platekompaniet

DVD Review: Follow The Money – The Complete Season Two

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Second season of the corporate drama proves that even Nordic Noir can have an off moment.

As the closing credits rolled on Follow the Money‘s first season it seemed that the story had reached its natural conclusion. Energreen’s CEO Alexander Sødergren may have been able to evade the forces of law and order in his Brazilian hideout but was unable to avoid the wrath of the firm’s chairman, Knud Christensen.

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Picking up events 18 months after Sødergren’s assassination, Follow the Money’s second season stumbles at the starting block and never recovers. The first series managed to finds its unsteady feet after an opening episode which committed the cardinal sin of hitting the viewer with too much exposition. Problems already evident in the first season are magnified in this second outing. Never recovering from an implausible opening episode which sets up a succession of improbable alliances this sophomore outing is a surprising misfire from DR’s drama department.

A brave but ultimately doomed attempt to fuse the visceral thrills of a crime series with an exploration of corporate malfeasance. Follow the Money is occasionally thrilling but mostly infuriating.

Lacking the depth of shows from Nordic Noir’s golden period, it’s a bland attempt to rehash the limited successes of a failed format. A tolerance for clumsy dialogue and an unhealthy suspension of disbelief are required to sit through Follow the Money.

Follow The Money – The Complete Season Two is available to order from Amazon

 

DVD Review: Follow The Money – The Complete Season One

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Nordic drama exposes corporate corruption.

Is greed good? Gordon Gekko’s infamous speech in the 1987 movie Wall Street made a case for the pursuit of corporate self-interest. After the devastating effects of the global economic crash corporate raiders pursuing fast profits were seen as sharp-suited vultures who had wrecked lives and saddled future generations with insurmountable debt. Taking the financial services industry to task, Follow the Money looks at the drive to green-light renewable energy projects and dares to investigate the legitimacy of its funding.

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Inspired by The Wire, Follow the Money is a flawed exploration of fraud and its consequences. Ambitious in scope, the series endeavours to offers a sprawling, intelligent, and shocking expose of crooked deals and cold-hearted morality but is occasionally crushed by a lack of focus. Attempting to prove that something is rotten in the state of Denmark Follow the Money‘s novelistic approach occasionally misfires. A brave experiment? Sign that Nordic drama is in transition? Signal that the well is starting to run dry? Far removed from the creative heights of The Bridge or The Killing, the series is a predictable schedule-filler.

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With a continent still reeling from the aftershocks of the 2008 crash a drama exposing the practices which brought the world to its knees should have been a recipe for riveting television. Starting with the death of a windshore turbine engineer Follow the Money‘s opening episode is a spectacular misfire. Teetering on the tightrope to failure it tosses in familiar, all-too-familiar, elements of more accomplished Nordic Noir series before loading the opening episode with too many characters and far too much plot. While later episodes settle into a more relaxed pattern it may be too late for viewers that have already pressed eject on their remote and decided to watch something else.

Follow The Money – The Complete Season One is available to order from Amazon

DVD News: Follow The Money – The Complete Series One

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Arrow Films has announced the Monday 25th April DVD & BLU-RAY release of the complete first season of the Danish financial crime thriller Follow the Money.

The series centres around one of Denmark’s leading energy companies, ‘Energreen’, and the endless layers of fraud and corruption which point towards insider trading and the death of an industrial employee. With a ruthless and troubled police officer determined to get to the bottom of this deception, a charismatic CEO set on growing his international business, a young lawyer desperate to advance in the company, and an ex-con devoted to provide for his family, this story becomes one of us human beings, the rich, the poor, the greedy, the fraudulent, the robbers who’ll go to any lengths to build the lives of our dreams.

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“A complex, sure-to-be-addictive tale of financial
lies and misdeeds”
– The Observer

“Nordic Noir is back on form with Follow the Money” 
– The Times

“Stylish and compelling”
– The Guardian

“Another Nordic noir that’s right on the money”
– Metro

Follow The Money is available to pre-order from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Follow-The-Money-DVD/dp/B01CF3BF0I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459340115&sr=8-1&keywords=follow+the+money

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Follow-The-Money-Blu-ray/dp/B01CF3BC8S/ref=sr_1_1_twi_blu_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1459340115&sr=8-1&keywords=follow+the+money

DVD News: The Bridge – The Complete Season Three

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Arrow Films has announced the the critically acclaimed crime-drama series The Bridge The Complete Season Three will be released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday December 21st. The Bridge Trilogy Boxset will also be released on December 21st on DVD and Blu-ray.

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The series premièred on BBC Four on Saturday evening to a record audience of 1.2m viewers, continuing from the record breaking 3.2 million viewers that tuned in to the premiere episode in Sweden. The hit series stars Sofia Helin as the enigmatic, unorthodox Swedish detective Saga Noren.

Saga once again partners-up with a Danish officer, this time the equally troubled Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt), as they unravel a series spectacular murders.

The Bridge – The Complete Season Three will be released on DVD & Blu-ray through Arrow Films on Monday 21st December.

Arrow Films will also be releasing The Bridge Trilogy Boxset on DVD & Blu-ray for fans to enjoy the beloved series in its entirety, from Saga and Martin first meeting on the infamous bridge, to the gripping third season finale. The boxset release will coincide with the release of Season 3 on December 21st.

The Bridge – The Complete Season Three  is available to pre-order from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bridge-Season-3-DVD/dp/B01535VC6W/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1448290893&sr=8-4&keywords=the+bridge

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bridge-Season-3-Blu-Ray/dp/B01535VBN6/ref=tmm_blu_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1448290893&sr=8-4

The Bridge Trilogy is available to pre-order from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bridge-Trilogy-Blu-Ray-Sofia-Helin/dp/B01535VBA4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448290975&sr=8-1&keywords=the+bridge+trilogy

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bridge-Trilogy-DVD-Sofia-Helin/dp/B01535VBKY/ref=tmm_dvd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1448290975&sr=8-1

Download your personal Bridge mini guide to Malmö here:

http://www.visitsweden.com/PageFiles/45269/VS_THEBRIDGETHREE_MINIGU

DVD Review: The Saboteurs

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An epic recreation of one of World War Two’s most significant acts of sabotage.

Previously filmed as Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water and The Heroes of Telemark, The Saboteurs is a balanced re-telling of the Nazi regime’s attempts to be first in the race to create nuclear weaponry and the daring efforts of Norwegian troops to destroy a plant being used to create fission material. A supremely well-crafted series brings to the screen a turning point in the war and places events in historical context.

The Norsk Hydro plant in Telemark, Norway, had been producing heavy water in large quantities since 1934. At the outbreak of hostilities an arrangement was in place to supply the French government with heavy water for the duration of the conflict. After Nazi occupation supplies were commandeered and sent to Germany where they were used by scientists in experiments to create the first atomic bomb.

Allied governments suspected that Germany was trying to create a nuclear weapon and that heavy water may be a core ingredient in the process. Destroying the plant could change the course of the war.

Perched atop an icy ravine, the plant was protected by several layers of concrete and armed guards. To reach the facility the saboteurs had to cross a frozen river and climb a gorge. Senior officers doubted that the raid would be successful. KAMPEN_OM_TUNGTVANNETBreaking viewing records, The Saboteurs achieved the highest ratings this century when it was screened in Norway. 1.7 million viewers tuned into the series (the country’s population is 5.1 million).

Eschewing the triumphalist “boys own” tone employed by previous adaptations the series presents people on both sides of the conflict as complex emotionally driven individuals wrestling with moral dilemmas. Screenwriter Petter S. Rosenlund and Director Per-Olav Sørensen have produced a tense series that trounces all previous attempts to dramatise the mission.

Deep in the heat of Germany’s war machine, Nobel Prize winning physicist Werner Heisenberg (Christoph Bach) conducts experiments to build the first atomic bomb. His superiors are convinced that this weapon will ensure Germany is victorious. Heisenberg requires heavy water to control nuclear fission.

Following Germany’s occupation of Norway chemistry professor Leif Tronstad (Espen Klouman-Høiner) flees to London and makes contact with Military Intelligence. Working alongside Colonel John Wilson (Pip Torrens) and Captain Julie Smith (Anna Friel), Leif plans a sabotage mission.

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Several changes have been made to the story for dramatic purposes. The on screen director of Norsk Hydro is a fictional creation that amalgamates several figures. When Leif arrived in London he was not met by Captain Julie Smith (Anna Friel). Records show that no female officer was involved in planning the mission.

Undoubtedly the definitive screen version of the mission. Per-Olav Sørensen’s cinematic direction offers up a succession of breathtaking set pieces which highlights the human drama and .communicates the dangers faced by troops as they attempted to cross a treacherous snow covered mountainous landscape.

A fitting tribute to the real-life heroes of Telemark. The Saboteurs is a complex slow burning drama that bravely tries to understand what motivated each side in this conflict. Alongside Arrow Films’ Generation War it represents a new benchmark in War drama.

The Saboteurs can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saboteurs-DVD-Espen-Klouman-H%C3%B8iner/dp/B00YEBTC0A/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1439144559&sr=1-1&keywords=the+sabatours

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saboteurs-Blu-ray-Espen-Klouman-H%C3%B8iner/dp/B0105UYJ7Y/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1439144559&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=the+sabatours