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The Legacy, Sky Arts 1 | reviews, news & interviews

The Legacy, Sky Arts 1

The Legacy, Sky Arts 1

Danish family saga promises heavy weather. Don't miss it

Ibsen with Volvos: Trine Dyrholm as Gro in 'The Legacy'

It’s a dark and Danish so of course there is a body. But it’s not that sort of body. The Legacy parts company from what we know of most Nordic television drama. It’s neither a fetid charnel house in which the cops are as freaky as the killers. Nor is it a place of sunshine, smiles and proportional representation. Instead, the latest export from the Danish broadcaster DR belongs to an older form of Scandinavian storytelling: the anguished family saga in which bombs planted back in the distant past detonate in the present. Think Ibsen with Volvos.

The Legacy, written by Maya Ilsøe and known in the original as Arvingerne, tells of the four grown-up children of renowned and splendidly scatty sculptress Veronika Grønnegaard. Veronika has put herself about a bit over the years. Two sons – Frederik and Emil - are the product of her marriage to a man who committed suicide soon after discovering that she’d given birth to a daughter called Gro with a hippy drop-out composer. But it’s soon revealed that there’s also another daughter, sired by a passing roofer, who took her away and brought her up with his wife.

On Christmas Eve Veronika makes contact with Signe (who goes by the all too portentous nickname of Sunshine) straight after getting very bad news from the oncologist, and impetuously wills her huge country home to her long-lost daughter. The titular legacy looks certain to throw the other three siblings into a tailspin. Frederik hasn’t spoken to his mother for a year but assumes he will take possession of his father's old pile, Emil has a development project in the Thai jungle which eats money, and Gro, a briskly crop-haired gallerist, believes the house is destined to become a memorial museum for her mother.

Such is the depth of characterisation that it already feels quietly shattering. The acting is impeccable in the Danish style, all monotones and shrugs and glowering tension. While drunken, unboundaried operatics are the preserve of Kirsten Olesen as the wantonly selfish Veronika, the real masterclass stuff happens when her children learn of her death. Carsten Bjørnlund as the uptight Frederik keeps a lid on his emotions when, dressed as Santa Claus, he carries on doling out presents to his unwitting family. “I wasn’t going to let her spoil our Christmas,” he tells his wife. As Gro breaking down over her mother’s corpse in hospital, Trine Dyrholm powerfully exudes the lonely regret of the eternal drudge, the daughter taken for granted and now abandoned.

The Legacy is not all døm and gløm. Much of the first episode is about establishing the world before it is visited by a sledgehammer. There is cheerful Christmas festivity with added arty larks – someone saws a hole in the ceiling to accommodate the tree. It’s all choreographed with zest by episode director Pernilla August (there’s more to come at the cheerful wake next week). And Signe (Marie Bach Hansen, pictured above) is indeed, as her nickname suggests, a pleasant ray of ordinary sunshine, with a beefy handball-pro boyfriend. She even works as a florist. Clouds, you very much suspect, are massing on the horizon for her and the whole lot of them, and it would be a fool who missed the spectacle. There are the regulation 10 episodes to weather.

The acting is impeccable in the Danish style, all monotones and shrugs and glowering tension

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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The author of this article writes that Signe is danish for sunshine. That is incorrect. Signe is a regular name, and Sunshine is her nickname. In danish Solskin. So basicly the family just gave her an english nickname .. maybe from "you are my sunshine" :D

I stand corrected. I am guilty of assuming a connection from the way the dialogue was constructed.

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