Reviews of Scandinavian Films and TV Series

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DAG: Season 3

I finished watching Season 3 of DAG. Here are a couple of the highlights:

Dag finally musters up the courage to try and find his son and connect with him. He goes over to the “mother’s” house and finds out that he doesn’t really have a child, the woman he was sleeping with who told him he had a child was mentally ill. She had just borrowed a baby from someone and was pretending.

Dag’s girlfriend Eva asks to take a break from him after he proposes to her.

I’ll discuss the second highlight in detail since this was the part of the second season that struck me the most.

The episode where Dag proposes and his girlfriend asks to take a break from each other is interesting. It’s interesting how it is framed. He and his girlfriend are having a double dinner date with his sister and her short Trinidadian boyfriend. Dag impulsively proposes and then Eva rushes from the table crying, to the bathroom where she locks herself in and won’t respond to him. It’s clear that Dag’s marriage proposal hasn’t gone well.


Dag comes back to the dinner table and his sister has now gone to another room. His sister’s boyfriend proceeds to very unempathetically tell him in lurid detail about the sex that he and Dag’s sister are having. I won’t go into the detail on here but essentially twisting a knife in Dag’s wound, he describes their sexual relationship as if he has completely violated Dag’s sister. (This is in much the same vein of , “Hey do you know what I did to your mother). He describes conquering his sister sexually. He tells Dag he has permanently physically changed his sister, and she will never relate to life or another man the same way again. You can see the expression on Dag’s face and it’s clear that he feels himself violated and very upset listening. Later he walks in on his sister and her boyfriend having sex in his dining room. What I found especially interesting about this scene is the way that it is presented as just the icing on the cake, the last straw and the salt in the wound of Eva rejecting Dag. This is the last thing he needs to hear on this night.

What is also extremely interesting is the fact Dag feels violated in exactly the same way by Eva. He feels that she has made her way in and almost physically changed him and made a hole in him that will now be there forever. He never connected with anyone on this deep an emotional level before, and he opened up to her and connected with her and now he is different, there is that longing for connection in him. Dag feels essentially deflowered and then abandoned. It’s fascinating because the idea of being sexually and emotionally violated via a romantic and sexual relationship is something we normally only apply to women. No one talks about men’s feelings of violation, and their feeling permanently changed by a relationship, and permanently physically changed them and like a woman has now carved a hole in their heart. There is only a conception of a women having these feelings of being sexually violated. To talk about a man being violated is taboo. Men are not allowed to voice these feelings. This TV series depends on a description of Eva being violated to voice Dag’s own feelings of violation because presumably if he were to try to explain them himself, the audience wouldn’t as easily understand and feel them. I can’t help but think that this is a feeling many men must experience and society’s unwillingness to acknowledge these men’s feelings of violation and allow men this sadness, must lead to a lot of men struggling with their feelings.

Eventually Dag does get back together with Eva in Season 3 and then later she proposes marriage to him and he says yes. There we have our happy ending.


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DAG: Norwegian TV Series

I’ve been watching the Norwegian TV series DAG recently. It’s quite interesting if nothing less! The protagonist DAG is an oddball, dysfunctional, ornery therapist who doesn’t have much sensitivity to his patients or faith in relationships in general. He is addicted to valium, and is shown regularly advising marital therapy couples to divorce. A few of his patients end up worse off. It’s presented as a bit of a comedy.

I’m currently watching the third season. The second season ended with relationship-phobic, recently dried out Dag being told that he has a son from a woman he was dating. Dag is terrified, he is afraid of closeness with anyone but now he has a son and apparently will have to be close or risk damaging the child the way his father did to him.

I was touched watching girlfriend Eva going to visit her elderly father and introducing her son to him and seeing her sadness and disappointment when she encounters the fact that he just doesn’t care for her. It’s hard to watch her sob. I guess it hurts anyone who finds out that a parent doesn’t care.

It’s interesting to watch Dag relate to single mother Eva and her son. Though he wonders if they have room for him in their life or he is intruding, he doesn’t treat Eva as if her child is extra baggage or she is not relationship material because she has a child. It’s interesting to watch him naturally pick the baby up and carry him around.

Benedikt, Dag’s dysfunctional “playboy” best friend, who cannot say no to sex. He is also potentially too good looking. He seems to have a never ending supply of beautiful women willing to sleep with him. Every man’s dream right ? He ends up being beaten up (often deservedly so for he breaks the hearts of so many women) in practically every episode of the show because he gets himself into bad situations because he just cannot refuse sex. It’s interesting to see this portrayal of the virile and sexually insatiable “masculinity” taken to the often comedic though sad extreme here. It challenges the idea of a man always being ready to have sex at every opportunity and shows that this is not always a good thing and can be harmful. DAG shows how a man can hurt himself by having too much sex and calls on the viewer to empathize with him in the way that he is hurting himself. It’s also an interesting exploration of the rarely explored angle of men protecting their well being by setting boundaries about sex and refusing unhealthy sex. He is an interesting contrast to DAG who cannot seem to sleep with any woman, just as much as Benedikt has no boundaries with respect to sex, DAG has his walls firmly up and cannot take them down. I also found this to be an interesting exploration. It is refreshing to see the portrayal of a man who does not want sex all the time and has a problem saying “yes” to sex, a characteristic that is usually ascribed to women and would be seen as feminine.

I was struck by the unconditional love, acceptance and loyalty Dag has to his best friend Benedikt. Dag is always there for him no matter what trouble he gets into. Dag sees what his friend does as harmful but he doesn’t judge him, shame him or guilt him.

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The Secret to Sex is Love: Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomanic

I have a lot to say about Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. Firstly I loved it! There is a lot that masquerades as sex positivity towards women’s sexuality that isn’t but this is the most genuinely sex positive movie I have seen in a while. Since this film is around five hours long and was divided into two volumes I will write this review in two parts.

Where should I start ? I enjoyed so much about this film and I am sure that that was only from the angles that I looked at it from.

This film was a little bit odd to watch in the cinema because of all the sex scenes in it. I normally watch my Scandinavian films with their nudity and explicit sex scenes at home. It’s a bit odd to be watching almost porn level explicit sexual content in a theatre. You feel a little turned on and there are strangers sitting next to you and potentially feeling the same. Oh the horror! It is a bit uncomfortable. In this way I finally understood what the Copenhagen Post meant when they reported last year that critics were “coming” over Nymphomaniac, with the attendant poster!

There were some points during my viewing experience where other movie goers would laugh somewhat salaciously and leeringly towards Joe. So I noticed that other movie goers did come in acting like this was a film made to cater to male sexual desire, even though this is an art film and is very much about exploring female sexual desire in its own right and not merely as an extension of male ego or male sexual need. I’m sure that Von Trier knew that many movie goers were starting from that conception.

Von Trier sets his film up cleverly. Joe the protagonist narrates her sexual life story to an excessively logical asexual stranger. As soon as Joe finishes each anecdote from her sex life, Seligman presents a somewhat calming influence ensuring that the audience doesn’t get turned out and putting out the sexual fires by evaluating what she says in a purely logical standpoint. If you have ever tried to flirt with a logical person who didn’t want to flirt back and watched them reply with a calm and uninterested logical response you know how brilliant a technique this is for making a film about sex while not making it too titillating. Having Joe narrate her story to an asexual man also allows the story to remain about Joe’s sexuality and her sexual desires and feelings instead of her story getting lost or overshadowed by the listener’s sexual desires or the listener feeling attracted to her from her “salacious” stories and feeling the need to also express his own sexual needs. Joe’s sexual needs remain at the centre of the story as they should be. This was a brilliant choice on Von Trier’s part.

A central point that Von Trier tries to illuminate in this movie is that sex without love is absurd. He has one of Joe’s friends as a teenager tell her, “The secret to sex is love.” Later after she has been sleeping with up to eight men a day to fulfill her obsession she meets the man that she loves and they get married but when she tries to sleep with him she can’t connect to him. The first volume of Nymphomaniac ends with Joe panicking in bed, “I can’t feel anything.” When she is finally with the person she loves she can’t turn on her feelings again. Evidently like a professor giving the last comment to a student who makes a point she wants the class to think about, Lars Von Trier wants to leave his audience to ponder that point.