Scoring Borgen: talking to Halfdan E

Barry Forshaw writes:  I met the talented composer Halfdan E at a meal at the Danish ambassador’s for the stars and creative team of such shows as Borgen and The Killing – and I discovered we had a connection. I’d written the introduction for the Norvik Press edition of Dan Turrell’s Murder in the Dark, and Halfdan had collaborated with the late writer on the CD ‘An Introduction.’ I asked the composer about his work on Borgen: ‘One of the things that tend to grow bigger by the hour when you start working on a score for a TV series, is the ambition for the title sequence and thus the music. Visuals need to be catching, music needs to be absolutely ear-catching. But not only that: in this case, the directors wanted it to reflect the ups and downs of life of the prime minister, but also the stress and cynicism of political life, the intrigue – but also the loneliness, the few warm moments, the bitternes and so on and so forth. A rollercoaster of an intro, in other words, all dispatched in music and in only 40 seconds. Continue reading

Dead of Night Gets the Blu-ray Treatment

Dead-of-Night-8575_1DEAD OF NIGHT Various Directors/StudioCanal  StudioCanal have issued the newly restored Ealing Classic DEAD OF NIGHT on DVD and Blu-ray- so how does this classic British horror film look in the 21st century? The glorious multi-director Dead of Night is not quite the only British horror film made in the 1940s, but it so nearly qualifies for that title that all other rivals for the title seem footling. On its original cinema showing, the film created something of a minor sensation – it should be remembered that such fare was rare indeed on British screens in this era and audiences hungry for a dose of the macabre or the supernatural had to be grateful for all the crumbs they were thrown. The fact that such an unsettling piece of work – surrealistic and nightmarish on the deepest level — was a product of the comfortably bourgeois Ealing Studios, famous for its affectionate and indulgent pictures of a certain version of British life, is perhaps part of the film’s appeal. The presence of the actors Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford (so memorable – and hilarious – as the cricket-obsessed Englishman in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes) perhaps lends an air of cosy complacency to the piece, but their episode should be seen in context’; the ‘golfing’ story is basically a jeu d’esprit, an attempt to lighten the mood between darker sequences. And the darkest episode – which is also not without a deeply sardonic humour – is one of the great glories of British Gothic cinema: the ventriloquist’s dummy episode directed by the maverick Brazilian auteur Cavalcanti and starring Michael Redgrave as a man obsessed with his wooden alter ego (Redgrave, of course, was an actor well acquainted with psychological conflict in his own troubled life, often channelled into his work). The subversive nature of this deeply creepy episode should not be underestimated – and the murderous, independently-minded dummy at war with its putative master has been much imitated since (cf Lindsay Shonteff’s Devil Doll, 1964), and it is perhaps only within the context of a portmanteau ghost story film that such an unyielding picture of psychosis and obsession could be presented (it goes without saying that the force of the episode is often due to the quietly monomaniac playing of Redgrave; if the actor considered this performance to be a lightweight assignment sandwiched between his more serious work, that would be to seriously underestimate the truthfulness of his performance — a performance all the more impressive given that its levels of psychological observation were more at the service of raising the hackles on the viewer’s neck (a function the film can still effortlessly maintain 60 odd years later) than offering a plausible picture of psychosis.Dead of Night takes on board a varieties of interesting psychological issues, such as the stripping away of layers of psychological deceit in the innocence of the dream state and even incorporates an examination of the British tendency to ‘pull together’ to obtain a common goal — which might be said to be what happens with the very disparate group of individuals that the architect played by Mervyn Johns meets at the house he finds himself arriving at in his recurrent dream. Are we shown in these very different types (young, older, spontaneous, stuffy) a microcosm of British society? (Even though the real agenda is, of course, to provide a variety of narrators.) And speaking of this last aspect, the film also provides an early example of the unreliable narrator — at least one of the stories we’re told is, quite self-consciously, a lie.

Through The Tunnel to The Bridge


The re-make of the Danish-Swedish hit The Bridge, THE TUNNEL, makes its Blu-ray and DVD bow thanks to Acorn Media. When a prominent French politician is found dead on the border between the UK and France, detectives Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane and Elise Wassermann (Clémence Poésy) are on the case. It’s efficiently made, but never offers any serious competition to the stunning original. And speaking of which, THE BRIDGE SERIES 2 (Arrow) manages to top its mesmerising predecessor, with an extraordinary climax. StudioCanal have issued the newly restored Ealing Classic DEAD OF NIGHT on DVD and Blu-ray; so how does this classic British horror film look in the 21st century? The fact that such an unsettling piece of work – surrealistic and nightmarish on the deepest level — was a product of the comfortably bourgeois Ealing Studios, famous for its affectionate and indulgent pictures of a certain version of British life, is perhaps part of the film’s appeal. Available for the first time ever in the UK is Claude Sautet’s CLASSE TOUS RISQUES/CONSIDER ALL RISKS  (BFI, 1960, with Lino Ventura Milo and Jean-Paul Belmondo). The film is study of loyalty and betrayal, distinguished by a bleak, incisive psychological truth. The relative obscurity of Sautet’s thriller is undeserved. LE WEEKEND (Curzon Film World) is not only a masterclass in film acting from Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent, but offers a hint of the kind of film Woody Allen might have made had he not lost his astringent edge; it’s an excoriating (but often very funny) account of a middle-aged couple attempting to salvage their marriage in Paris. HIGH ROAD TO CHINA (Medium Rare) is an adventure film with Tom Selleck perhaps demonstrating that Spielberg was lucky not to snag him for Indiana Jones. Nevertheless, incident-packed and diverting. The same company has issued MEGAFORCE with Barry Bostwick as a futuristic fighter in headband and bright blue Lycra; it has to be seen to be believed. JOHN DIES AT THE END (Eureka) is a recent film by the director of the imaginative Phantasm, Don Coscarelli, and this truly bizarre non-stop slice of surrealist action is proof that the director’s imagination has not withered on the vine. In SCAVENGERS (Image Entertainment, on DVD and Blu-ray), the crew of the Starship Revelator survive by keeping out of trouble, until they stumble across the mechanics of ultimate destruction. Standard medium-budget SF fare.


BFI London Film Festival Announces 2014 Dates

The BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® announced today that its 58th edition will run from 8-19 October 2014 at venues across the UK capital. Under the stewardship of BFI’s Head of Cinemas and Festivals, Clare Stewart, the LFF continues to build on the striking success of its recent editions. The 2013 Festival, which included 22 world premieres, 13 International and 29 European premieres, was widely regarded as an outstanding line-up. Continue reading


PSYCHO-MANIA! Stephen Jones, editor  Another bulky collection from the doyen of British horror editors, Stephen Jones. Psycho-Mania! is a quirkily varied and lively collection, sporting enjoyably gruesome tales of bloodletting and serial killers from such reliable talents as Kim Newman, Paul McAuley and Christopher Fowler. These writers rub shoulders with veterans such as the late R Chetwynd-Hayes and the author of Psycho itself, Robert Bloch, (who provides an introduction and personally adorns the jacket, grinning with blood-dripping kitchen knife).

MAGIC WORDS: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF ALAN MOORE  Lance Parkin  This is as an exhaustive and detailed a life of a key comics creators (and source of a variety of films) as one could wish for – and it is particularly refreshing to report that it is no hagiography; Moore’s protean talent is clearly matched by his uncompromising, rebarbative nature, and his lengthy succession of fallings-out with colleagues are discussed in full, as is his remarkable work on such comics work as Watchmen, Superman and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

PSYCHO-MANIA!  Stephen Jones, editor is published by Robinson/MAGIC WORDS: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF ALAN MOORE by Lance Parkin is published by Aurum Press



In the Green Room at Nordicana

Barry Forshaw writes: Perhaps I was in a bubble, but much enjoyed my green room chats at Nordicana with Sofia Helin, Kim Bodnia, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Krister Henriksson, Adam Price, Hakan Nesser, Arne Dahl, Carsten Bjornlund… plus seeing old (and making new) friends… icing on the cake: even sold some my own books!